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Villagers protest dredging in Kandal

AROUND 200 villagers living along the Mekong River in Kandal province protested Sunday against sand-dredging operations that they say are eroding riverbanks and threatening their farmland.

Muth Thoeun, a resident of Chong Koh village in Kien Svay district’s Koh Oknhatey commune, said Sunday that more than 10 ships have been dredging sand in the river close to his village since early in the year, prompting calls for authorities to intervene.

“People are very scared of the land falling into the river, because those ships are dredging sand about 100 meters from the riverbank,” he said. “I do not mean to interrupt their business but they must do it legally.”

Villager In Yom said her house was once around 20 metres from the riverbank, but that erosion had brought the water to within 5 metres of her front door. “My mango trees, coconut trees and bamboo trees have fallen into the river,” she said.

Koh Oknhatey commune chief Moa Seng could not be reached for comment Sunday, but deputy commune chief Pon Sivorn confirmed the villagers’ complaints, saying officials had tried to drive the dredging boats away to no avail.

“The authorities have been trying to resolve this for the people, but it is very difficult to chase [the boats]. After chasing them out, they return and dredge at nighttime,” he said.

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