Twenty years ago, the streams that run through the remote village of Totim in Preah Vihear’s Rovieng district, sparkled with gold. Those flecks drew poor farmers to the Romdeng community, looking to sift for gold and improve their livelihood. Before long, it also brought a large-scale mining operation — along with mounting problems.
In the decade since Delcom, a joint Cambodian-Chinese gold mining company, began its operations, the community has lost almost all of its forests and residents struggle with livestock health issues and chronic land disputes. The situation is a marked change from what villagers experienced when first moving to the community.
Sitting under the porch of a zinc-roof house, Tuy Chheng, a 65-year-old former elementary school teacher and community representative, said he longed to return to the past; before the company came.
“My hometown is in Kampong Cham. Since I have many children, my livelihood was too poor and my salary was low, so I brought my wife and children to live here.” When he moved to the area in the early 2000s, he said, there were only about 20 to 30 families.