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Phnom Penh authorities assess dredging damage

Phnom Penh authorities assess dredging damage

121206_05

Slipping away: makeshift scaffolding props up waterfront houses threatened by dredging in the Tonle Sap. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

Local authorities in Russey Keo district inspected village homes along the banks of the Tonle Sap yesterday after residents refused compensation from the sand-dredging company they say is causing their homes to collapse into the river, claiming the amount is too small.

Villagers said the official visit, which comes on the heels of an official complaint, was limited to an inspection of the damage to the houses and noting the number of residents affected.

Pillars in affected houses began breaking when the dredging started on November 25.

On Monday and Tuesday, 22 residents of Svay Pak commune‘s Svay Pak village filed a complaint to the Russey Keo district hall seeking intervention after So Lyda, the owner of the sand-dredging business, asked them to move out.

She offered to pay each family $500 in compensation, far below the $500 a square foot villagers have requested.

The dredging activity has since been suspended.

Hon Sotheary, 29, said that although the dredging had stopped, it was only temporary and the operation would resume in the future.

She said some families had agreed to the compensation because they had other properties, but she had nowhere else to go.

“We need a solution, not $500,” Sotheary said.

Of the 22 worst-affected residents, only two families have accepted the compensation.

Yem Veng, 35, who lives on the river bank, said he had been forced to move away to protect his children after a pillar in his house began to break.  

“It is so difficult,” he said. “We are always worried about our safety. My children are little.”

Veng said he was constantly worried that an accident might occur when his family was fast asleep.  

So Lyda maintains the amount of compensation offered was sufficient and that the company’s methods met professional standards.

“Our sand-dredging business is allowed by the Phnom Penh municipality,” she said.

Hou Samon, the commune chief of Savy Pak, denied to comment, saying he had been busy in a meeting.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sen David at [email protected]

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