Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Kandal Residents Whose Homes Were Destroyed By Riverbank Collapse Request Faster Solutions

Houses collapsed at Bassac’s river bank in Prek Koy commune, Sa’ang district, Kandal province, April 25, 2023. (CamboJA/Sovann Sreypich)
Houses collapsed at Bassac’s river bank in Prek Koy commune, Sa’ang district, Kandal province, April 25, 2023. (CamboJA/Sovann Sreypich)

Kandal residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed following a riverbank collapse in late April in a stretch of the Tonle Bassac with heavy sand-mining say they have still not received solutions from authorities.

Var Srun, a local money changer whose home was among the dozens badly damaged, said he urged authorities to help affected families regain a normal living situation. He said he was unable to sleep in his damaged home and he and his wife had been sleeping with his relatives.

“They have not solved it yet from the time of the collapse until now, they have been waiting for us to wait for the experts to come and check, and they have not set a time,” Srun said.  “I hope they will solve it soon, because if we wait longer, it will affect our business even more. ”

Srun’s wife Kim Manet said she remained concerned about working at their stall near the road. The homes which collapsed were around 40 meters from the river.

“What to do? I have been scared, scared from then on, I was traumatized, but I also had to keep selling because I have [to support] two grandparents, even though I don’t have as many customers as before,” she said. “At least I can have money to pay for my husband’s monthly medical bills, but staying with relatives temporarily is also not like our own [home]. We can not stay forever.”

The collapse seriously damaged 30 houses and impacted 10 other houses, affecting 21 families, according to a report from the Kandal Provincial Disaster Management Secretariat. 

Kandal authorities say they are working to solve the issue but remained vague about the specific actions and timeline for impacted residents in Trapeang Chhouk village along National Road 2 in Prey Koy commune.

“The authorities and relevant officials are studying this case every day to resolve it as soon as possible and for a specific time has not been determined yet,” said Prey Koy commune chief Chheang Tang.

Kandal deputy governor Nou Peng Chandara added he was also not certain about what would happen for the dozens of affected families or when.

“We were working on that issue and I have not been able to determine and know for sure yet,” Chandara said.

Kandal governor Kong Sophorn said authorities had donated supplies to residents and would help them dismantle their damaged homes and offer encouragement to affected people. 

“So far, the people have been supported by the provision of gifts as a contribution to livelihood and encouragement from the relevant authorities to continue to dismantle the collapsed houses, some of whom continue to live in their decent living conditions and may continue to live normally,” Sophorn said.

Adhoc spokesperson Soeung Senkaruna said authorities have a responsibility to compensate residents if the collapse was caused by sand mining.

“There should be clear measures before allowing sand dredging in this area not to affect the lives of people and the environment,” Senkaruna said. “The authorities should review and not let this happen. This problem leads to the loss of land, affecting homes, businesses, public health, hygiene, safety and the daily lives of the people.”

A report in the aftermath of the riverbank collapse attributed the riverbank collapse to receding waters and landslides caused by people building homes close to the river, stressing the bank. There was no mention of sand dredging. 

Several residents told CamboJA the day after the collapse that they believed extensive sand mining was the cause of the collapse but authorities had warned them from speaking to journalists. 

One affected resident, Lo Suy Se, said his gold trading business was still unable to operate as normal in the weeks following the collapse.

“Now it is still affecting the business, there is loss of sales because I am usually moving to sell in a new place, lost, sales are not as good as before. “I urge the state to help prevent the bank from collapsing when the water rises, and to help resolve it as soon as possible.”

He said the sand dredging business continues and he watches the dredging barges pump and transport sand along the river every day.