The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology warned that an individual who had filled parts of the Mekong River in Kampong Cham province with stones, obstructing its natural flow, could face sever legal consequences.

The statement was made after a landowner, which it did not identify, in Prey Toteung village in Srei Santhor district’s Russey Srok commune unlawfully filled more than 55m of the river with rocks, intending to extend this to nearly 300m without official approval.

The ministry has clarified that filling a river with stones or sand, thereby hindering its natural flow, is a violation of Article 36 of the Law on Water Resources Management.

“An offender shall be fined from 5 to 10 million riel [$1,230 to $2,459] and face imprisonment from one to five years, for hindering or obstructing the flow of rivers, streams and canals without permission. In cases of non-recidivism, the sentence shall be doubled,” stated a February 23 press release from the ministry. 

Another release, from the Kampong Cham Provincial Administration on February 22, reported that after learning about the illegal activity, deputy provincial governor Srey Sopheak was promptly appointed to lead an investigation. 

The team, which took photographs and met with stakeholders, confirmed the activity had been ongoing from January 2.

An aerial view shows the Mekong river at Prey Toteung village in Srei Santhor district’s Russey Srok commune unlawfully filled with rocks last week. Kampong Cham Admin

According to the provincial administration, it issued an urgent directive requiring the landowner to cease the activity immediately, stating the offender is obliged to remove the existing stones within a 70-day period. 

It stated the measure is aimed at preventing future issues with waterway traffic and that the landowner is also instructed to report to the administration at the end of each month. 

It said its working group will oversee the enforcement of the order, conducting weekly or as-needed inspections.

It indicated that these actions represent only initial steps and they are currently examining the legal framework to potentially bring additional charges against those responsible for the unauthorised action.

The ministry, along with the provincial administration, have expressed their gratitude to the public and journalists, noting their prompt and accurate reporting of the situation had been instrumental in facilitating the implementation of legal measures.