More than 100 families from Mkak commune in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district on Sunday regained five trucks and one tractor impounded by officials from the Ministry of Mines and Energy for unauthorised silt excavation.
Mkak commune chief Marn Khan told The Post on Monday that he and village security guards tried to prevent the 160 families from taking back the machinery, but to no avail. He said the villagers claimed to have used the machinery to restore a pond for public use.
“Villagers and the truck owners didn’t listen to me. They just demanded their vehicles and machinery back. They said authorities should not obstruct their pond digging activities. There were too many people so we could not stop them,” he said.
Local authorities’ support
Ang Snuol district governor Nim Niradeth told The Post on Monday that the machinery belongs to a local clean water supply firm owned by Chea Koy.
He said local authorities supported the pond restoration for public interests, but officials from the ministry accused the company of digging the pond to extract silt for sale without authorisation.
“Local authorities and I asked the firm owned by Chea Koy to restore the pond upon the 160 families’ request. The company did not charge a fee but dug it in exchange for silt from the excavation.
“Officials from the Ministry of Mines and Energy said the firm extracted silt for commercial purposes and demanded it pay taxes to the government based on the actual size of the business operation,” he said.
Niradeth said the officials, who were led by the ministry’s undersecretary of state Heng Chanthoeun, initially confiscated the machinery and instructed the firm to pay taxes and apply for a licence, but eventually gave in to the villagers’ demands.
Neither Koy nor Chanthoeun could be reached for comment on Monday.
Yos Monirath, director-general of the ministry’s General Department of Mineral Resources, said on Monday that while forcefully regaining the machinery was a minor offence, the firm owner would need to follow legal procedures.
Monirath said he welcomed the firm’s contribution to local development but also needed to ensure law enforcement.
“If a pond is smaller than 1ha, the business owner only needs permission from the provincial authority because the ministry has delegated the power to authorities at a sub-national level. For a bigger pond, the owner needs to seek prior permission from relevant ministries."
“Although the company voluntarily contributed to local development, it still needs to follow legal procedures,” he said.
District governor Niradeth said the pond in question spans 5ha and after restoration is expected to serve as a major source of clean water in Ang Snuol district.