Inspectors from the Energy Ministry busted two unlicensed sand dredgers operating on a stretch of river close to Phnom Penh’s Royal Palace, in the first action of a new campaign to protect Cambodia’s rivers.
The River Guard Campaign, enforced by a coalition of the country’s armed forces, was first announced on March 25, after Prime Minister Hun Sen handed sole responsibility for sand-dredging licenses over to the Ministry of Mines and Energy two days earlier.
As well as the Saturday operation in Phnom Penh, dredgers were also busted in the Sa’ang district of Kandal province following complaints from local residents.
During the campaign’s launch, Energy Minister Suy Sem declared that no new licenses would be granted until social and environmental impact assessments had been carried out.
Illegal sand dredging has caused numerous problems in the past, with residents around affected rivers blaming the activity for causing instability and landslides.
In the past, large scale illegal operations have been linked to government officials and influential businessmen.