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Activists take on dredgers

Sand-dredging ships and barges anchor along a section of the Andoung Tuek River in Koh Kong’s Botum Sakor district earlier this month.
Sand-dredging ships and barges anchor along a section of the Andoung Tuek River in Koh Kong’s Botum Sakor district earlier this month. MOTHER NATURE

Activists take on dredgers

More than 100 environmental activists and local community members yesterday continued a campaign to attempt to drive out “illegal” Vietnamese dredging boats extracting sand from the Andoung Tuek River in Koh Kong’s Botum Sakor district.

San Mala, a member of the environmental NGO Mother Nature, founded by deported activist Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, said two Vietnamese companies – International Rainbow Co Ltd and Direct Access Co – were using nearly 100 sand-dredging and transportation boats to illegally mine estuaries in the area despite calls to authorities to halt the companies’ operations in the area.

“We complained to authorities many times, but they seem to ignore it,” he said.

To combat what they consider unlawful and harmful activities, the activists, riding 12 fishing boats, yesterday proceeded to tail and board the dredging vehicles to peacefully get them to leave.

“[We] activists and community [members] used our force to chase them away,” Mala said.

Mala added that the companies received licences from the local Mining Department in 2009, but the permits were issued without requiring any sort of social or environmental impact assessments, which he says has led to the destruction of local ecosystems and livelihoods.

Pu Kun, a local resident who took part in the protest, said the companies’ operations were destroying fishing conditions in the river, and added that vigilance would be required to make sure they do not continue to dredge.

“They stopped driving their boats for awhile, but we think that they will continue their activities if we do not remain here,” he said.

Koh Kong Mining Department director Pich Siyon said that “the companies have licences from the government”.

However, Dith Tina, a spokesman for the Ministry of Mines and Energy, and both companies could not be reached.

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