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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Toxic report out, waste not yet

Toxic report out, waste not yet


Workers seal metal drums of waste last month.

Formosa Plastics has agreed to remove the waste, but so far will not discuss compensation.

THE government has just received a comprehensive technical report on the management

of the Sihanoukville toxic waste dump and proposals for the removal of the waste.

Prime Minister Hun Sen had contacted Ron McDowell from the engineering department

of New Zealand's Auckland University to seek advice on cleaning up the mercury laden


Dr McDowell said he visited the site and has now passed his report on to the Cambodian


He said that the government was now "handling the project in the correct manner

and are going carefully through the process of negotiation with the Taiwan company".

He said that the matter appeared to be being resolved and he hoped to "have

some good progress shortly".

Meanwhile, residents in Pho Toeung village, Bettrang commune, near the site said

that they were becoming increasingly concerned that they had been poisoned by mercury.

Villagers said that five residents had died since the waste was dumped near their


Many of those talked to complained of feeling lethargic and generally ill.

Most of those who have died or become ill have been elderly and villagers said they

believed that was because the poison was starting to affect the weakest first.

However, health authorities in Sihanoukville said that the real cause of disease

in the village was dengue and malaria.

One official said that the people in the village were poor and malnourished which

made them vulnerable to illnesses like malaria.

But despite the assurances the villagers are not convinced.

Phin Vinh, 37, said that he was worried about his wife and particularly his children

whom he said had played with the bags that the waste was packed in.

But he added he saw no point in moving away because he believed if they had already

been poisoned there was nothing they could do about.

It is a view shared by other people in the village.

Nen Sam Oun, 38, believed they were doomed.

"I think that my family will soon die because they have already received the

poison from the waste," he said.

However he acknowledged that he had been tested for mercury in his blood but there

was only a small level - below the danger levels. Bettrang commune chief Ith

Sok said that he had asked the government many times to come and remove the waste

and he added he was angry he was never consulted about its dumping in the first place.

"I didn't know about this," he said.

"If I knew I would not have let them dump the waste near our place to make my

people miserable like this."

In Phnom Penh, meanwhile, the long struggle to find someone to pin the blame on for

the waste scandal continued. Three men have been charged so far in connection with

the case, including customs director In Saroeun, but many beleive that the real blame

lies at a much higher level.

Six more officials were to be charged Thursday; details of the outcome were unavailable

at Post press time.

International environmentalists have been keen to point out that blame ultimately

lies with the company that produced the waste, Taiwanese petrochemical giant Formosa


Formosa has so far agreed to remove the waste from the dumpsite within 60 days (from

Feb 7), but has refused to discuss any compensation deals.



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