A representative for prominent tycoon Khun Sea’s company confirmed the firm was responsible for in-filling in the Mekong River very near to the ferry stop at Kandal’s Arey Ksat – after social media users and ferry passengers posted photos of large stony embankments.
Photos emerged on social media in recent days showing rocky outcrops along the river bank in Arey Ksat – right next to where the ferry docks and in front of villagers’ homes. Khun Sea Development is already filling in around 30 hectares along the Mekong River further south, with sandy embankments now visible along the riverside.
Seng Phen, a representative for Khun Sea Development, first denied involvement with the filling in of the river, but later admitted it was part of a 70-hectare development granted by the government. He said the new development would be a “Hong Kong-style” entertainment area costing $1.5 to $2 billion.
“The construction will not be close to the riverbank. It will be 50 meters from the river and the gap is for building public roads and gardens,” he said.
He added that the company had rented the 70 hectares from the state and had solved any potential land disputes by “giving fair compensation.”
“We have solved the issues with the people, and they are happy,” he said.
Kandal Governor Kong Sophorn said that the filling in was being done by a “company” but did not name Khun Sea Development. He, however, told Thmey Thmey that Khun Sea’s company was doing the reclamation after being granted 70 hectares on a 50-year lease.
“Related to the rock filling, it belongs to a company who has rented land from the state,” he told VOA Khmer. “The river is big, so it will not affect the water flow,” he added.
Arey Ksat residents living along the river said they were concerned about the new rocky in-filling and had not been informed about the new project.
Kreun Ravith, 27, said the rocks were dumped in the river daily from 6 p.m. to midnight.
“Now they are filling it in with sand in,” said the riverside resident. “I am also concerned that it will affect my house, but I don’t know what to say.”
Doung Buth, 76, another villager living near the rocky embankment, said he did not dare protest against a project that was approved by the government, but he urged the authorities to ensure he got fair compensation to buy another home.
“We can’t contest against the law. They can develop whatever they want,” he said.
Neth Pheaktra, spokesperson for the Environment Ministry, refused to comment on the development and directed queries to the Ministry of Water Resources, where Chan Youttha, a spokesperson, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Eng Kimhong, research and advocacy program manager at the Cambodian Youth Network, said he was concerned about the in-fill’s effect on the flow of water in the river, and questioned if an environmental impact assessment had been conducted and if it would be made public.
“I think the rocks are far from the riverbank, so it is not about cementing the riverbank,” he said.