October 20, 2011

Dredging ends, effects linger


Ruling party Senator Ly Yong Phat has kept a promise to stop his company’s dredging operations on Koh Kong province’s Tatai river, relieved business owners and residents living along the waterway said yesterday.

But provincial officials confirmed that as the senator’s dredging boats moved on to their new location, one of them hit an electricity pole, knocking out power in the provincial capital, Kemarak Phumin town, for an estimated four to seven days.

Janet Newman, owner of the Rainbow Lodge ecotourism resort, said Ly Yong Phat had stuck to an agreement he made with her and others to stop dredging by October 17, and even finished early, to the delight of tourism operators and, in particular, riverside communities.

“I think that [residents are] very relieved that they’ve gone, and one would hope the crabs and so on will start reestablishing themselves, because, frankly, that has been the most devastating impact for the local people,” she said.

But she said the operations have left a lasting legacy, with clear evidence of multiple river banks collapsing, and suggested that the senator’s LYP Group had probably moved on because they had already “pretty much taken everything that was in the river”.

Governor of Kemarak Phnumin town (formerly Koh Kong town) Phe Thoun Plamkesan said an LYP Group ferry had crashed into an electricity transmission post at 12pm yesterday severing a power line from Thailand.

“Electricity in all of Kemarak Phumin town was cut off after a ferry from Okhna Ly Yong Phat crashed into an electric post. In the entire town, there is no power at all. The residents have no electricity for [basic] living.

Authorities had suggested residents use generators until a solution could be negotiated with the power company, he added.

111020_06b        A collapsed riverbank on the Tatai River in Koh Kong
Ly Yong Phat owns the Koh Kong Electricity and Water Supply company as well as a resort, a toll bridge and a sugar plantation amongst other assets in the province and was dubbed the “King of Koh Kong” in a cable from the United States Embassy released by anti-secrecy organisation WikiLeaks this year.

Pech Siyon, a director of the department of energy in Koh Kong said Ly Yong Phat had been granted a licence to dredge the “entire Koh Kong province”.

A licence obtained by the Post early this year showed that the LYP Group had the right to dredge in Koh Kong’s Sre Ambel and Koh Pao rivers and in Dong village for a fifth consecutive year until September 2012.

In July, LYP Group was ordered to halt it operations in the upper Tatai river by the Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology amidst concerns it was “excessively” dredging the area, a ban residents and business owners said was subsequently ignored.

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