Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun called for those who filled in and constructed buildings over canals to remove anything blocking the vital drainage systems as flooding continues to impact the province.

His statements came on Saturday as his forces went with heavy machinery to restore canals in six locations to drain rainwater flooding the towns and districts in his province.

Chamroeun said the city is being damaged by flooding as water is not draining sufficiently. But, he added, the provincial administration is preparing a plan to resolve the issue.

“It is raining more, and more people are violating the canals. Please remove [anything blocking them],” he said.

Kheang Phearum, Preah Sihanouk provincial administration spokesman, said on Sunday that the canal restoration included clearing canals in six locations with a total length of 710m. The canals in question were Andaung Untac canal, Sam Ath canal, O’Chhoeu Teal canal, M’lop Tapang canal, LV canal and canal one (of five).

“We appeal to citizens who are involved in filling in [soil] and the construction of buildings that violate canals. Please cooperate with the provincial administration to restore and expand canals as per the province’s master plan until all water from the floods can be released to avoid a disaster,” he said.

According to Phearum, flooding caused by rain early this month severely impacted four communes in Sihanoukville and Prey Nop district, resulting in damage to roads and bridges. In total 1,736 families, 937 houses and hundreds of cars, motorbikes, generators and electronic equipment were affected.

Chieb Sotheary, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said on Sunday that on August 13, Chamroeun met with civil society organisations to explore why flooding was impacting the town so badly.

She said that six civil society organisations requested that the provincial governor resolve the issue. “This issue has not just happened. It has been happening for a long time but only now it is being addressed,” she said.

Sotheary said that people continued to fill in and construct buildings on canals as the authorities failed to act against them.

“I support the activities of the province this time. But I would like what has been said to be recorded as a promise because those violating canals are not all normal people; some of them are powerful,” she claimed.