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Activists talk dredging woes

Mother Nature co-founder Sun Mala (right) delivers a presentation yesterday in Phnom Penh on dredging activities in Koh Kong’s Botum Sakor district.
Mother Nature co-founder Sun Mala (right) delivers a presentation yesterday in Phnom Penh on dredging activities in Koh Kong’s Botum Sakor district. Vireak Mai

Activists talk dredging woes

Lawmakers and activists have called on the government to address controversial dredging activities in Koh Kong’s Botum Sakor district, as environmental and social impacts continue to take their toll on the surrounding areas and communities.

Yesterday, members of the conservation NGO Mother Nature, founded by deported activist Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, held a press conference in Phnom Penh to raise their concerns over dredging by International Rainbow Co Ltd and Direct Access Co.

The group previously led a campaign against the two Vietnamese companies last week, boarding boats and chasing dredgers away for what they said was “illegal” activity.

The group threatened to take action once again if the government fails to stop the dredging.

“We will start our campaign again if the government does not reply and find a solution for us,” said Mother Nature co-founder Sun Mala.

“We need the government to officially stop these companies. We do not fear being arrested if we start up again.”

Vey Van Ning, a fisherman who hails from the affected area, said that dredging near his village has completely decimated his fishing prospects and has caused his earnings to go down.

“The water is so dirty now, and there is less fish,” he said.

“We depend on fishing for a living, but now with [less] fish, our incomes are also less.”

In response, Pich Siyun, head of Koh Kong’s Mines and Energy Department, who was present at the conference, told villagers and concerned parties that, “the ministry is now creating a working group to find a solution”.

Meanwhile, Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Son Chhay has sent a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking him to personally address the dredging issues in the district.

Seventeen dredging boats and 41 transportation vessels are said to be working the area, creating environmental issues and causing river banks to collapse.

“We found that the two companies are dredging using the wrong techniques . . . in places prohibited by the government,” the letter, dated July 30 and obtained by the Post yesterday, stated.

“Please, Samdech Prime Minister, take more action to stop the lawless dredging, which provides little income for the state but has serious effects on the environment and residents’ livelihoods.”

Mother Nature began its anti-dredging campaign in Koh Kong in April.

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