Villagers protest sand dredging

By: May Titthara and Daniel Pye

Villagers from Koh Kong province’s Koh Kapi commune petitioned the National Assembly’s Environment Commission yesterday to raise in parliament an ongoing dispute over sand dredging, two weeks after local NGO Mother Nature began protests against a company they accuse of destroying the environment.

You Sophal, one of seven community representatives who came to the capital yesterday, called on Commission Chairman Pol Ham, an opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker, to intervene against the Vietnamese-owned International Rainbow Company.

“We blocked the company from dredging, which was affecting the environment, biodiversity and fisheries,” she said.

International Rainbow director Va An could not be reached.

Ham, of the Environment Commission, said the “matter is the concern of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, but after I get the [villagers’] letter I will submit it to the commission”.

On Wednesday, a letter was sent to Koh Kong Provincial Hall urging the authorities to expel Mother Nature from the area, though the NGO has claimed the letter was the product of a campaign by the company to hinder their work.

Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, a founder of Mother Nature who was deported from Cambodia in February after the authorities refused to renew his visa, said the operations were “a crime against nature and a serious human rights violation.
“On top of that, it is all outright illegal, not just the dredgers operating without a ‘licence’, but even those with one, as there never was in the first place any serious study on the environmental and social impacts of this practice.”

“Although I am sure that a small fraction of the people living in Koh Srolav island, mostly police and other authorities under the payroll of the sand cartel, will be happy to see us go . . . the spark has been lit and nothing is going to stop it now.

SOURCE: THE PHNOM PENH POST