Three Cambodians Missing After Mekong Bank Collapse

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A map showing Preah Prasop commune in Cambodia's Kandal province.
A map showing Preah Prasop commune in Cambodia's Kandal province.

Authorities in Cambodia’s Kandal province are searching for a family of three believed drowned after an embankment on a heavily dredged bend of the Mekong River collapsed into the water, taking their home with it.

Officials said the incident on Tuesday evening in Preah Prasop commune in Kandal’s Ksach Kandal district was a “natural disaster,” but residents claimed that boats illegally dredging sand for export along the river had weakened the banks, which caused the deadly cave-in.

Police said they deployed dive teams after the collapse occurred, but fear the three people may have drowned.

Those missing are believed to be a 40-year-old woman, her son, and grandson, according to authorities, who said that a fourth person was injured in the incident and was currently being treated at a local hospital.

A villager named Ven Noy told RFA’s Khmer Service that it was unlikely for the three to have survived.

“The pillows and blankets are floating to the surface,” he said.

“I think the bodies are probably trapped inside the house.”

Other residents of Preah Prasop said “experts” were on their way to assist in search efforts and that they had not given up hope of finding the three people.

A resident of Preah Prasop commune takes a photo of the collapsed river bank, Feb. 19, 2014. Credit: RFA
A resident of Preah Prasop commune takes a photo of the collapsed river bank, Feb. 19, 2014. Credit: RFA RFA
Cause of collapse

Tor Yun, chief of the commune, which lies about 30 kilometers (20 miles) northeast of the capital Phnom Penh, said authorities had warned that the river bank might cave in but that villagers had remained in the area, calling the incident a “natural disaster.”

He said that during the dry season in Cambodia, the waters of the Mekong recede into the nearby Ton Le Sap River, and the low water level may have caused the bank to give way.

“We are asking the villagers not to build homes close to the river to avoid another disaster,” he said.

But several villagers told RFA that they believed the collapse was the result of sand dredging operations, which they said continue “day and night,” despite a government ban on the practice along the Mekong and the Ton Le Sap since October.

The landlord of the collapsed home, Leap Chheng Souy, said Tuesday’s incident was “the first time that the river bank had collapsed” in the area.

He said that nearby stretches of the Mekong had often been used for sand dredging during the past five years.

Other witnesses said that there was no indication that the bank was in danger of collapse before Tuesday, suggesting that riverbed excavation far below the land’s surface had caused it to cave in.

Villager Ven Noy said “there were a few cracks” on the bank before the collapse.

During the rescue operation, RFA reporters witnessed boats loaded full of sand on the river.

Dredging plan

Environmentalists say sand dredging endangers villagers and damages local ecosystems.

Prime Minister Hun Sen imposed a ban in October last year on dredging along the Mekong and Ton Le Sap, but less than two months later the Cambodia Daily reported that the Ministry of Water Resources had impounded five barges in Kandal province for flouting the suspension.

In December, residents of Kandal’s Ksach Kandal district held a protest along the banks of the Mekong against five other barges also pumping sand in an apparent violation of the government ban, the report said.

Complaining that the dredging would cause the riverbank to collapse, organizers said the company which owned the boats had been given a license to operate which was later nullified by the government, but had continued to work in the area.

Reported by Van Vicha for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Comments (3)

Anonymous Reader

R Kwaark, Hun Sen has been told about illegal sand dredging in the Mekong River for years-Also Faty Chiem Yiep & Chheang Vun knew about that too- It's time for this idiot (thminch khmao kbotCheat Khmer) and his corrupted CPP clan (yeay Phu-Sok An & his brother Sok Kong, Om Yin Teang, Var Kim Hong, Mon Rithy, Hor Nam Hong..) to go with the flow of Mekong river down to hell to meet Khmoch yuon Hok Lung Dy & Ho Chi Minh.

Feb 20, 2014 01:58 PM

Anonymous Reader

Hun Sen, you are responsible for this. Your corrupt government continues to kill innocent poor Khmer. When are you going to stop this illegal foreigners from drudging sand from the river?

Feb 20, 2014 10:01 AM

Anonymous Reader


REALLY, WHO CARES when half of the Cambodians voted for Hun Sen's CPP.
The CAMBODIANS don't even feel sorry for their own fate as it is the WILL of BUDDHA.
The poor is poorer because in his/her last life he/she was a bad person.
The rich is richer by the spoils of a justifiedly corrupt gvt because these rich ones were good people in their past lives.
Life is but an illusion. Le malheur des uns fait le bonheur des autres. More than 40 Cambodians are killed by Thai bullets while illegally logging wood in Thailand. Cambodian lives are VALUELESS for the CPP, COMMUNIST PEOPLE PARTY OF HUN SEN. However, the CPP is bursting with dollars.

3 more Cambodians deaths are NOT news until the CPP cares about Cambodians.
And since half of Cambodians do NOT care like CPP. HUMANS are other dead meat.

Feb 19, 2014 11:50 PM





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