Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Villagers in Kandal seek assistance following riverbank collapse

A view of houses in Prek Thei village that collapsed into the creek in Kandal Province’s Takhmao city, August 4, 2022. CamboJA/ Seoung Nimol
A view of houses in Prek Thei village that collapsed into the creek in Kandal Province’s Takhmao city, August 4, 2022. CamboJA/ Seoung Nimol

A collapsed riverbank has severely affected 12 families in Kandal province’s Takhmao city, and dozens more living nearby are worried about further collapse.

The landslide occurred on July 30 when restoration work on the canal may have caused it to overflow. People living in Prek Thei and Prek Samraong villages,  Roka Khpos commune, about five kilometers from the area where the restoration work was taking place , were badly affected.

Phorn Yany, who has been living beside the waterway for more than 15 years, said that on July 30 her house sank into the creek, leaving her family homeless and in dire straits.

“To build the house I borrowed money from the bank, but now the bank has not been paid yet, and the house has collapsed,” she said.

She told CamboJA that she believed the landslide may have been caused by the restoration of the upper part of the canal near the new airport, which caused the water to start flowing fast.

Yany asked the authorities and the government to help the affected people because they have nowhere to go.

“[We] ask the government to help solve the problem so that the people have shelter. Now I’ve lost everything,” she said.

So far, local authorities have just told people to move their homes to the sidewalk next to the canal. But the Red Cross has been helping those affected, distributing  rice and other goods.

“After the landslide, the authorities told everyone to leave their houses and move to live on the road,” Yany said. However, it’s too dangerous to live there, she said, as the area is rife with dengue.

Residents work under tents they set up on the street after their houses collapsed into a creek in Kandal province’s Takhmao city, August 4, 2022. CamboJA/ Seoung Nimol

Another resident, Khim Touch, a laborer who has been living there since 1991, said that before the incident she was scared to sleep, fearing the riverbank would collapse because the water was flowing so strongly.

“We don’t have a house and land, we don’t know what to do. So we’ve come to live on the street,” she said.

She asked the government to help those affected because they are all poor and have no new land to live on.

“They (the Red Cross) came to distribute donations, but I would like to ask the government to help us get shelter so we can get land to build a house. We are very poor,” she said.

Mon Maly, chief of Prek Thei village, told CamboJA that usually during the rainy season the water starts to flow stronger than before, and denied it was from the restoration of the canal to develop clean water.

“Let them live on the road temporarily before settling because there is no choice,” he said.

 “They were not supposed to live on the land they were on by the waterway because the place was dangerous and the land was state-owned, but they were poor, so they lived there,” he added.

Some of the houses that collapsed in Prek Thei village in Kandal Province’s Takhmao city, August 4, 2022. CamboJA/ Seoung Nimol

Soeung Saran, executive director at housing rights NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, said the authorities should respond quickly, in cooperation with the Disaster Management Authority, to find a safe place for people to move.

CamboJA contacted Kruy Malen, administrative director of Kandal Provincial Hall, but he referred questions back to Nou Sovannara, governor of Takhmao City. Sovannara declined to comment.

Former Mother Nature activist Phuon Keoreaksmey said it was the responsibility of the authorities because they had agreed on the rehabilitation of the canal. Living on the road was very risky because of traffic accidents, she said.

“Residents should get a solution that is appropriate and acceptable after their homes collapsed due to the restoration of the canal. And relocating people to this street is not a safe place,” she said.

Reaksmey continued: “An appropriate solution that should be given to the people is to provide affordable housing and some compensation. Even if they lived on state land, the houses were built with their own money. Do not let them fall into greater poverty.”

She said that before deciding whether to develop or build something, the authorities should study the impact.