Prime Minister Hun Sen said people who criticised the authorities’ response to flash flooding in Phnom Penh were jealous of the government’s development, saying it was not due to the fill-in of lakes but torrential rain that prevents the timely release of water.

Hun Sen made the remarks during the inauguration ceremony of the new headquarters for the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction on November 8.

“What I hate the most is that when there is a flood, some people curse us saying it is because [we] have filled in lakes. Do you understand the word flood? If the water coming and going is not balanced, there will be a flood.

“It’s not only from the Prek Tnaot river but also from the Mekong River. It is not only Cambodia that has been flooded, France also has flooded . . . because a large amount of water from the upstream and the downstream couldn’t be released in time,” Hun Sen said.

The prime minster said that in the past the capital had many lakes, but he pointed out that even now there is nothing to worry about, including the Kob Srov dam that some people fear would collapse.

“The reason people feared the dam would collapse was because a lot of water flowed into it. So, we had to pile soil in front of the dam to prevent it collapsing.

“I understand that it’s envy – jealousy of rapid development. The development to reach this stage is very good.

“The water used to increase by 100-200mm at a time, so not just drains or canals – even the Mekong River is flooded due to rainwater coming from the upstream,” he said.

Hun Sen reminded people that Phnom Penh used to have many lakes such as Boeung

Raing, Boeung Prolit, Boeung Keng Kang, Boeung Techon near Phsar Thmei and Orussey, but that the lakes have been filled in to build markets and other infrastructure.

Hun Sen asked why it was possible at that time, and why it

was not possible during his time.

“Floods in Phnom Penh have nothing to do with the Prek Tnaot River. Even if nothing is done to it, the river still floods [during rainy season]. But I do not encourage anyone to block the waterway or the flow of water. Do not continue to criticise flooding in Phnom Penh during the rainy season and place the blame on the filling-in of lakes,” he said.

In October, 1,600 families were affected when the Prek Tnaot river flooded Kamboul and Dangkor districts on the outskirts of the capital, while more than 10 families in neighbouring Kandal province were also hit by the flooding.

Floods caused by the river have now eased and authorities have withdrawn some rescue forces, while almost all the people who had been evacuated to higher ground have returned home.