A surge of water released from a dam near Tonle Sap Lake in Chong Kneas commune has destroyed or damaged 66 houses and more than 70 boats, residents said.
They said the water was released on June 28 by the dam’s investor and operator, Cambodian-South Korean joint venture Sou Ching Investment Co., into a canal dug to provide moorings for boats.
The incident was the latest in a series of conflicts between the company and Chong Kneas residents since Sou Ching was granted a license in May 2007 to undertake a $2-million port development project. The project was stalled by residents’ protests over the disruption it would cause to their lives.
Yee Nai, 41, said the water cascaded into the canal “like a tsunami”, damaging houses and boats, and tearing fish and crocodile cages from their moorings.
There were no deaths or injuries, and many crocodile cages were salvaged without the animals escaping, but many residents are demanding compensation for property losses.
Nai said two of his boats were badly damaged and he originally assessed his losses at $6,000. He later reduced the figure to $4,000 to try to speed up his compensation claim.
Nai said neither the company nor the authorities had told him in advance that the water would be released.
However, Pierre Legros of the Panenan Co. told the Post that, even though one of two boats he keeps at Chong Kneas was slightly damaged, adequate advance warnings had been given.
“In this case the company did its job,” Legros said. “They informed the local government and the people that this would happen, but no one reacted. The company has no power to go in and actually push the boats away.”
Chong Kneas commune chief Em Marn confirmed that the company had warned the public to stay 200 meters from the dam when the water was released, but the force of the water was apparently underestimated.
“The water stream was very strong and it wiped out many houses which were nearly three kilometers from the dam site,” Marn said.
Sou Ching representative Ros Chhudeith, who was at Chong Kneas on July 3 negotiating damages claims, said compensation would be paid quickly.
“We don’t want to waste their time and make them lose more profit or more of their daily income,” Chhudeith said.