Kampot provincial authorities have decided to postpone all algae production in a
local commune in the wake of a conflict in the provincial court between an algae-growing
cooperative and local villagers.
Governor Puth Chanrith said the provincial authorities would send experts to study
the impact algae-growing activities were having on the villagers' abilities to catch
"Our experts will investigate the conflict and research the impact to the environment
next week," he said.
Kampot court delayed testimony from villagers' representatives December 11 after
more than 300 villagers from the commune turned up at court. The court had summoned
representatives at the request of the cooperative, which wanted their response to
its complaint. Judge Kim Ravy said too many people had turned up, and postponed the
"As the court, we must investigate complaints that we receive to determine who
is right and who is wrong," he said.
Villagers denied they were destroying the cooperative's algae stocks and said they
simply wanted their fishing grounds back. Police November 30 fired warning shots
at villagers who tried to uproot algae strings.
Seng Chantha, a representative, came to Phnom Penh the following day to seek legal
assistance. He said the Cambodian Defenders' Project would start work for them next
"Our people are very concerned about our livelihoods, so we decided as many
of us as possible should come to court," he said.
Villager Nan Sophal, 39, said people could no longer wait for the local authorities
to provide a solution. She said that before the company set up its operation, villagers
earned as much as 30,000 riel a day from catching fish, crabs and shrimp. Now they
were lucky to get one-tenth that.
"We can not wait any longer," Sophal said. "Our rice pot is there,
and we need it to survive. We cannot survive on this amount. What does one kilogram
of rice cost? How much do we have to pay to send our children to school? What about
other expenses? We are finding it very hard to live now."
Touch Seng Tana, a scientist and member of the economic, social and cultural observation
unit at the Council of Ministers, said algae growth should not adversely impact the
However, he acknowledged that if the cooperative - made up of local police, sailors
and villagers from outside the area - had taken people's land or water for its business,
that would lead to conflict.
"To avoid problems the cooperative should provide villagers with some technical
assistance and pay them to grow the algae. It could just buy it from them,"
he said "That would be a good solution."
Cambodia exports the by-product from algae - known as carrageenan - which is
used in medicines, cosmetics and paint. The bulk of the country's 500 hectares suitable
for algae is located in Kampot province.