Nearly 500 villagers gathered at a bridge in Kratie’s Snuol district on Tuesday and Wednesday morning to protest its blockade by a Vietnamese company that had reportedly decided the bridge was “getting old”.
According to villager representative Sim Pov, two horizontal planks were installed at opposite ends of the 30-metre by 6-metre bridge on Monday by Vietnamese firm Binh Phuoc 2 – which built the bridge in 2009 – with the company’s workers standing by to bar entry to vehicles exceeding 1 tonne.
“The company said that the bridge was closed because it was getting old,” Pov said. “But on a few occasions, villagers saw the company[’s workers] allowing some trucks exceeding 3 tonnes to cross after demanding 5,000 to 10,000 riel [about $1.25 to $2.50] from the drivers. Yet, they disallow some trucks exceeding 1 tonne [but lighter than 3 tonnes] from crossing.”
“We need this bridge very much to transport and sell our crops,” said Sem Pheak, a villager who participated in the protest. “All the crops are always over 1 tonne, but now the company only allows trucks less than 1 tonne to cross. It is impossible.”
Din Korny, an investigator at rights group Adhoc, called on authorities to intervene.
“This is the company’s bridge, but the bridge is for the public’s benefit, so . . . the company has no right to close it by themselves,” he said, adding that Adhoc will investigate the extortion allegations.
District Governor Kong Kimmy said “authorities are working to discuss with the company”. Contact information for Binh Phuoc 2 could not be obtained yesterday.