Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Dredging protest in Kandal

Dredging protest in Kandal

A section of bank along the Tonle Bassac that locals say collapsed due to dredging in Kandal province’s Sa’ang district. Ly Raksmey/Mother Nature
A section of bank along the Tonle Bassac that locals say collapsed due to dredging in Kandal province’s Sa’ang district. Ly Raksmey/Mother Nature

Dredging protest in Kandal

Over 200 people held a protest yesterday morning in Kandal province’s Sa’ang district, demanding that provincial authorities halt sand-dredging operations on the Bassac River.

The Raka Khpos commune residents demonstrated in Koh Kor village at the site where, according to villagers, erosion has led about 10 homes to crumble into the Tonle Bassac River over the past year.

One of the protesters, Khem Phan, 40, said the sand dredging began last July. “We hold this peaceful protest to ban the sand dredging because it causes damage to the riverbank and property loss,” said Phan, who worries continued sand dredging could have lethal consequences.

“It happened during the day time,” said Phan. “If it was at night, villagers might [have] died in the collapse.”

Phan claimed locals do not know the name of the company responsible as its employees have refused to tell them who they work for. Meanwhile, Phan said, provincial authorities were not receptive to their concerns.

“The [provincial] officials say that [the company] dredges to deepen the river,” Phan said.

Phan said the sand was dredged to fill in a lake on more than 50 hectares of land in neighbouring Tuol Krasang village for a project to build affordable housing for civil servants.

Community members protest against sand dredging activity in Kandal's Saang district yesterday. Ly Raksmey/Mother Nature
Community members protest against sand dredging activity in Kandal's Saang district yesterday. Ly Raksmey/Mother Nature

Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, co-founder of the environmental NGO Mother Nature, said he was familiar with the situation in Sa’ang district.

“The Ministry should for now temporarily pause further sand extraction in the area, properly consult with local communities, and prepare real, not fake, social and environmental impact assessments,” he wrote in an email.

Kandal’s deputy provincial governor, Khem Chankiri, said provincial officials would investigate the villagers’ grievances.

According to Chankiri, a company called Leng Ching obtained a licence from the Ministry of Mines and Energy to extract sand from the area for the construction of the nearby apartments.

He went on to argue that sand dredging can have a positive environmental impact. “The extraction, at some locations, eases the water flow and rescues [the] riverbank,” Chankiri said, adding that an environmental impact assessment [EIA] had been conducted.

Chankiri went on to dismiss the protesters as troublemakers from outside the commune. Residents of the commune, Chankiri said, were invited to a forum last summer explaining the project and its benefits.

Protester and Koh Kor village resident Mut Mom, 42, acknowledged the forum took place, but that many in the commune remained uninformed because they did not attend.

“[Officials] have never talked to them at home or at the site where land collapsed,” Mom said.

Ministry of Mines and Energy spokesman Dith Tina shared Chankiri’s assessment, writing yesterday’s protest off as “an attempt to incite people to protest by politically motivated outsiders and anarchist individuals under [an] NGO name”, without stating which NGO.

Additional reporting by Yesenia Amaro

MOST VIEWED

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    The Ministry of Health has issued a directive on the treatment of people who have tested positive for the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, following a suggestion from Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of January 21. The directive permits home quarantine for those who

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that

  • Hun Sen gets 4th Covid shot, urges compatriots to follow

    Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany on January 14 received their fourth dose of Covid-19 vaccine and called on compatriots to follow suit as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread in the community. This marks the launch of Cambodia's fourth-dose vaccination campaign,

  • Fourth dose Covid booster drive jabs 43K in two days

    In the first two days of the fourth-dose Covid-19 vaccination campaign, more than 43,000 people volunteered to get the jabs, while over 4.6 million people have received a third shot. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said that fourth-dose vaccinations, which began on January 14 exclusively with the Pfizer

  • Singapore backs Cambodia's efforts on Myanmar

    Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong supports Cambodia in its efforts to seek a solution to the ongoing Myanmar crisis as the chair of ASEAN. Lee expressed his support during a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen via videoconference on January 14, with the talks focused