A group made up of 514 families living in Russey Srok commune in Peam Chor district, Prey Veng province has called on Minister of Interior Sar Kheng to replace Hang Chham Chhan, a senior official of the Ministry of Civil Service from a joint working group to help the commune.
They claim that Chham Chhan hadn’t done anything useful for them.
Leng Samoeur, one of nine commune representatives, told The Post on Sunday that the families from Pen, Tapoung, Ith and Chheur Teal villages had called on the minister to fire the official.
She said several years have passed since Chham Chhan had arrived at the commune and he has only caused problems for the residents.
They claim he colluded with his relatives to take over state canals spanning nearly 3km and built by a wealthy man, Pen Nuon, for his gain. Residents said they are now required to pay 450,000 riel ($110) for each hectare of their paddy fields.
“We filed a complaint with the Ministry of Interior in November last year, but the complaint has still not been addressed. We filed a complaint with the Prey Veng provincial hall and the court, but nothing was solved. We appeal to [the interior minister] to solve this problem,” she said.
Dam Mean, another representative, said on Sunday that the three canals that were managed by the authorities to sell water to residents had been donated by Nuon, an adviser to Kheng.
The three canals were dug and built in 2014. But the authorities took the canals, requiring them to pay 200,000 riel if they wanted to pump water into the paddy fields or irrigate crops.
He said that in 2017, the authorities raised the price to 300,000 riel. Last year, they raised it to 450,000 riel.
“I just wonder if the canals belong to the state. The authorities instead took them for their gain and they sell canal water.
If any resident wants to pump water into the paddy fields or irrigate crops they have to spend 450,000 riel.
“If they have no money to give the authorities, they give 180kg of rice instead. Without money or rice being given to the authorities, residents have no opportunity to pump this water for use,” he said.
Russey Srok commune chief Nuon Meng said on Sunday that the problem of the canals could not yet be solved because residents had not accepted a solution offered by the authorities. However, Peam Chor district and provincial authorities would go there to coordinate and find another solution.
He said he was made aware of the complaint against Chham Chhan with the Ministry of Interior in November last year, and representatives from the ministry had gone there to investigate the case, but a solution has not been found.
“On Monday, I hope the authorities will find a solution for residents because they need water to cultivate rice. Several hectares of paddy fields are being affected without water. I have coordinated it on several occasions, but they don’t listen to me. So, let the top-level people solve the case,” he said.
Chham Chhan denied the accusations on Sunday, saying they had distorted the facts and that it was a baseless claim. He said he had not engaged in raising the price. He said he is only a coordinator and an adviser along with the authorities.
“I don’t take issue with the [514 families] over wanting me removed from my position or stopping me from working to help Russey Srok commune if approved by [Prime Minister] Hun Sen.
“If he is not satisfied with my work, I will follow the recommendations accordingly. Two or three residents are behind this and the others have no problems with me,” he claimed.