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Ministry tells Phnom Penh to put end to digging

A man looks over an open pit, that was formally used to dig soil, yesterday on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
A man looks over an open pit, that was formally used to dig soil, yesterday on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

Ministry tells Phnom Penh to put end to digging

In the wake of recent illegal digging in the capital, Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem has called on the Phnom Penh city governor to stop issuing licences allowing businesses to dig soil in the city and to strengthen its enforcement on a longstanding government ban on the practice.

In a letter to Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong dated September 5 and obtained yesterday, Sem said the government in 2005 decided to halt soil digging in the capital, but the ministry has observed that the municipality continues to issue licences allowing businesses to dig.

The notice was issued following a recent crackdown in Por Sen Chey district on illegal digging by two individuals, Kem Sotheary and Chray Sambou, said Dith Tina, secretary of state for the ministry.

“Last week, the ministry’s inspection team already warned those individuals to stop digging,” he said. “And if they continue their illegal activities, we will enforce the law with Article 35.”

Under Article 35 of the Mineral Resource Management and Exploitation Law, any person found to be mining in violation of the law, faces punishments including hefty fines and up to five years in prison.

“The ministry understands about the development demand in Phnom Penh municipality, but those developments need to comply with law,” the ministry’s letter reads.

Contact information couldn’t be found for Sotheary or Sambou yesterday.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Khoung Sreng and City Hall spokesman Mean Chanyada both denied that the municipality had allowed companies to dig.

“City Hall has not issued them [licences] and we don’t allow them to do illegal business,” Sreng said.

However, according to a letter dated May 6, also obtained yesterday, Socheatvong acknowledges the city has issues with the digging and transport of soil, and orders all 12 districts to shut down open pits.

In the letter, Socheatvong says businesses’ noncompliance was “resulting in anarchy and damaging the infrastructure in Phnom Penh city”.

“In order to prevent and control open-pit businesses, Phnom Penh City Hall has decided to shut down open-pit businesses in Phnom Penh city and invalidate any documents that allow them to operate . . . all over Phnom Penh,” he said in the letter.

Chanyada said officials plan to meet with the ministry to discuss the recent case.

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