IN MEMORY OF MY FATHER - Ny Leng 1931-2015

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 Humanity: "There's no difference between one's killing and making decisions that will send others to kill. It's exactly the same thing, or even worse." -Golda Meir
[By: Ny Leng]
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The Canal Project: Prek Tnout
Concept Paper & Research Study

"Prek Tnout river be extended to the sea by digging through Kaong Sre Ambel"

Study and Research Work Carried Out and  Written By: Mr. Ny Leng


"As nation-building, Cambodian should measure its effectiveness; not sufficiency" Unanimous


The following description is served as a comparison aiming at making better understood this request for the extension of the Stung Prek Tnout in order to make its water pour down into the sea in the rainy Saison, and therefore, flooding in the country would be reduced.

The Suez Canal digging plan was made for the first time in 1700 but was neglected for several years and successively on many occasions because of the imperatives of the moment such as the problems of geography or territorial integrity, the problems of study, general policy, technique , financing, armed or ideological conflicts as well as the future canal running modes.

It was just until 25-4-1859 this plan could come into being: The Suez Canal first digging work was undertaken at the far end part of its mouth towards the Red Sea. Its other mouth towards Mediterranean Sea was dug at Said Port level. The Suez Canal is situated in Egypt (Middle East ) and its construction has the advantage of shortening the crossing distance between Europe and Asia , that is to say that from Asia we depart from the Red Sea and through the Suez Canal, we end up at Said Port on the Mediterranean Sea which then leads the way to Europe.

The Suez Canal is 52m wide and draws 22m of water. As it was improved on many occasions, in certain places where the canal cuts through some natural lakes, its width is brought to 365m and its draught to 67m. As the crow flies, its length is 112km but its meander course stretches out on almost 161 km.

Flag of Cambodia

Its achievement coast was estimated at 400 millions francs on the whole (on a preliminary estimate cost of 200 millions francs only). At the beginning of the work , the canal site employed 25,000 workers which were gradually reduced to 2,500 owing to the use of the engineering machines. There were more than 80 different units of machines with an overall power of 15,000 HP , working by steam and using up from 20 to 30 thousands tons of charcoal per month.

Moreover, a ramification of railroads was set up, and a fresh water canal linked to the Nile and using the latter's water as a source of energy for the mobile digging and dredging works by machines installed on some rafts, was also dug along the Canal (The Nile is over 100km from the Suez Canal).

According to calculations, the quantity of the soil excavated which was transported and dumped elsewhere was estimated at 100 millions cubic meters. At the same time, a certain number of supporting installations were made or improved with a view to the smooth process of the works, such as Said Port at the Mediterranean Sea mouth, Suez port and Ibrahim port at the far end part of the Red Sea as well as Ismailia town built just half way of the Canal and served as a port of call.

It is worth noticing that the implementation of this huge excavation work site benefited by its natural advantage: both of the seas have the same water level and moreover a great part of the soil was sedimentary only a small part of it was rocky- which contributed to making the work by and large be easier.

This unique international cooperation was at the outset directed by Great Britain which withdrew later on in favor of France which resumed the works management following its new plan, and the site which was called from now on "The Egyptian-French Site" had to go through 15 years of assiduous efforts before it could be completed. On November 17th 1969, the imperial yacht with the Empress Eugenie Napoleon III aboard took the lead of a flotilla of 80 boats of all nationalities and solemnly opened up the Suez Canal to the navigation.

(Extract from a 1882 French document. Unofficial translation)

The Suez Canal description shows us that only a relentless sustained perseverance could make the Suez Canal achievement possible. With regard to the Stung Prek Tnout extension proposal which is the subject of this rubric and which we have to be realistic on, I humbly suggest to undertake a number of additive studies of the following subjects:

  1. The canal upper brim width and the width of its lower bottom.
  2. The mouth depth of the Stung Prek Tnout (Takmao).
  3. The canal length.
  4. Excavation to improve some existing parts of the stung and excavation according to the plan.
  5. The plain and the mountain foot which the canal is to run through.
  6. Excavation works schedule.
  7. The highest and the lowest water level at Chaktomuk or at Stung Prek Tnout during both seasons.
  8. Sea level at Kaong or at Sre Ambel.
  9. Water stream speed in the rainy season - in the dry season.
  10. General advantage of the stung Prek Tnout extension.
  11. Losses caused by this excavation.
  12. Which character -national or international - to attribute to this canal.
  13. Losses this extension might cause to the international community and to the Mekong River.
  14. Varied installations to support excavation works.
  15. Possible repercussions on the irrigation dams of Prek Tnout, Kauk Malich and Prey Pdav.
  16. Repercussions on Kirirom Hydroelectric Dam.
  17. Financing source: where to get it?
  18. Duration of the capital depreciation.
  19. Which type of firm (small-medium -large) to be chosen for the works.
  20. The total amount of the soil excavated to be transported and dumped elsewhere.


If we refer to the 1982 tourist map , the distance as the crow flies between the bank of the stung Prek Tnout and Sre Ambel is 140km, and this distance would be 170-175km in geographical meandering . The stung Prek Tnout shows a disproportion in its length: Upstream, there is a short part of 30km long from the Bassac bank as far as Kompong Tuol dam where its bed is rather deep and where the river water gets to during the rainy season (Bench mark 134).

It is this short part which only requires some improvements , but from this spot onwards, new excavation works have to be undertaken as far as Kraing Ambel brook ( Prey Pdav) by cutting across National Road 4 to end up at Kauk Malich irrigation dam (243). Pich Nil-Kirirom hill rises less than 500m. Its foot stretches out about as far as 10km but it is not sure yet if its bed keeps the same width all along its course (243).

The current upper width of the stung Prek Tnout (Takmao) could be taken as the measurement for the future canal upper width, and the latter bottom width could be cone-shaped or steep (to be defined later). Regarding the canal depth, it is the most important element which requires a detailed study, but however it may be, this depth could not be deeper than the Mekong River depth at Chaktomuk level or than the Bassac one in the dry season in order to prevent water from flowing out of the Tonle Sap lake at the end of the low- water season.

However, this suggestion is referred to the Tonle Sap current situation. In the future, if after dredging the lake, nothing serious occurs and if there is less inundation, then we will decide on the Prek Tnout extension project, for above all ,there must be a balance between Tonle Sap lake and its surroundings .

With regard to the excavation work schedule, it is merely a point to be thought over. If the current dimension of the Stung is to be taken as the canal width measurement, and the above-mentioned depths as its depth , the excavation work on almost 200km really seems to be tremendous. According to our project, the digging goes on from Kompong Tuol (134) as far as beyond both feet of the hill. Therefore, the works should be divided in 3, 4 or 5 steps as follows:

Achievement Line

Width-Depth and Canal Length

  • 1st five years plan : 15 m 5 m out of its whole length
  • 2nd five years plan : 25 m 10 m out of its whole length
  • 3rd five years plan : 35 m 15 m out of its whole length
  • 4th five years plan : 48 m 18 m out of its whole length
  • 5th five years plan : Improvement of the whole works done and of the upper part of the stung (Takmao-KompongTuol)

With regard to data about the highest water level at Chaktomuk or at Prek Tnout, those data enable us to calculate the quantity and the speed of the water which flows toward the sea . For this reason, only the canal width acts upon this water flowing. Regarding its depth, the question which must be considered is the damage it might cause to the Tonle Sap lake as earlier said. To the question to what extent this future canal can help reducing the flooding, its answer depends on the canal dimensions: a reduction of about 1/3 out of the whole water quantity.

Some additional measures have to be envisaged such as to make improvement work with a view to making much deeper the upper parts of the Sekon - Sesan- Sre Pauk rivers and to diverting theirs waters from their upstream toward other places, or ask Vietnam (it would be to his advantage to do) to build extension canals linking the above-said rivers as far as China Sea at Lower (Quan Nam) or (Cap Varella) Page # 5Danang.

So to speak, it seems this project is nearly not feasible, even if in 50 or 70 years , because up to now, not any concrete serious plan has been conceived and no study in theory or in figure has been conducted either. According to his calculations, Mr. Tan Kim Huon, an agricultural engineer, estimated at 7 thousand millions cubic meters the quantity of water which flooded the country( 1 m3 of water could leave 4cm3 of sediments).

Consequently, it is absolutely necessary to build a certain number of diversion canals at several places and to undertake dredging works in some lakes and ponds with a view to making them deep and to using them as some compensating reservoirs in the dry season. It is thus our last measure which, once it has been taken, will help our whole country getting away definitely from flood disaster.

What are the main advantages of the canal digging?

  • The most important advantage consists in rescuing our country from the Flooding by reducing them on 1/3 of our country area.
  • Reforming family farming (Farming for family consumption and also for sale even if there is no surplus crop) so as to turn it into a family agora-industry.
  • Creating a light industry of livestock rearing and of silk produce for it is a plateau area and it will generate jobs for the inhabitants.
  • Water brings alluvial deposits to this whole area, thus creating a new type of fertilizing soil beneficial to agriculture, aquatic animal rearing, salt pan and also giving birth to cheap means of transport, new Tourist - Economical system.

Which character to attribute to the canal, national or international?

This is a point to be thought over. If only our future canal was meant for agriculture, it would be good not to build it, because improving Kauk Malich Dam would be largely enough, but such a development is not satisfactory in relation to the development already achieved by our neighboring countries. So in that context, our project has to be raised to international character like the Mekong River project.

What does this international character consist of?

If our canal is large and deep enough, medium-sized ship can sail it. In that case, we will have to take down and to rebuild Takmao bridge, Kompong Tuol bridge and Okraing Ambel bridge ( Prey Pdav ). Moreover, we will have to bring Laos to take part in our project by internationalizing this area, thus allowing this country to convey in transit its goods from the sea by coming through the confluences in front of the Royal Palace and finally by sailing down toward Kratie or to elsewhere if possible.

In the same way, Vietnam and Thailand would use this canal at least for tourist purposes. Therefore, we will have to set up a port with its administration office in each of some localities such as Takmao, Kompong Tuol, Okraing Ambel, Kaong or Sre-Ambel. We will also have to build 3 bridges, one across the railroad in Dankor and the other in Sre Ambel and in Roka kos (The scale of the construction will be shown in the future).

Will this stung Prek Tnout extension project create problems detrimental to national and international interests? The fact is that depending on this canal efficiency, every country run across by the Mekong River will benefit from the canal advantage more or less. Besides, Kirirom hydro-electric dam will not be disrupted, Kompong Tuol and Kauk Malich dams will be rearranged, but of course, some inevitable damages will affect certain other places the canal will have to run across and the State will have thus to compensate for the inhabitants' losses or to give them a new stretch of land in exchange.


A further study of the canal end needs to be made: Will the canal end up at Sre Ambel as said earlier or at Kaong on Pich Nil hill foot? And which one of these both places will be more worthwhile? (From Stung Takmao bank to Kaong, the distance as the crow flies is 100km and 110km in geographical meandering).

Another note, the canal excavation work has to be carried out in two main steps as follows:

  • A- A proposal which must be looked upon as the most urgent thing: Whatever it may be, a canal will have to be dug on one spot liable to reducing the abrupt distressing floodings.
  • B- In the long term, go on with the excavation as far as the deep sea by thus implementing national and international canal project or tie up this project with the problem relating to the source of the inland rivers such as Sekon River, Sesan River, Sre-Pauk River and of some canals, which will give us an opportunity of assessing the capital depreciation.

Allow me to break off this study at this point. Once I will have received comments from national and international community upon this matter, I will make additional study relating to the following subjects: Investment and Financing problem, where to start excavation? Quantity of the earth to be excavated, number of engineering machines needed for the works, which type of firm (small-medium-large) to be chosen, how many workers are required? Etc. I will rely on Suez Canal architectural documents which represents a great achievement of a universal technique and a real concrete formula so as it will be much easy to appraise the raised project by comparison.

Cambodian inhabitants are very poor and destitute because firstly of the inexorable floods and secondly of the lack of water in some area in the dry season. So, it is an obvious fact that the country reconstruction and the improvement of the inhabitant living conditions have to start off from the agriculture source.

Let us remember the great labor of our ancestors who relentlessly persevered at creating numerous masterpieces such as the Khmer country founding in the world, the fierce struggle against all types of enemies for centuries and centuries to safeguard our country from dying out like some countries, the building of the glorious great Angkor, an extraordinary marvel. If all of these achievements were made possible, it was only due to one sole thing: "The untiring perseverance of our ancestors."

Cambodia was under French colonialism for almost 100 years, but due to the tenacious struggle to claim independence of the whole Cambodian people uniting with the Royal Crusade under the leadership of Samdech Euv Preah Norodom Sihanouk, Cambodia fully regained its independence on November 9th 1953. After France departure, Cambodia had only 14 provinces. Afterwards, His Majesty instituted 5 more provinces, 8 sub-provinces and 7 municipalities.

This short reminder has no other aim but only to show the perseverance and the tenacity of the past. In this century, Cambodian nationals should help their country reduce floorings, the current problem it is facing. This text, translated into French and English, is submitted to:

  • His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk Varman, King of Cambodia " For His Very High Consideration"
  • His Excellency Mr. Sok An, Senior Minister and Minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers
  • The Ministers of: Hydrology and Meteorology, Agriculture, Industry, Rural Development.
  • Ministry Environment, Public Works, The National Committee for the Mekong "Please institute a national committee to make a study of the inundation"

Chairman of the Provisional Committee for Inundation Study

Mr. Ny Leng


If we look at Cambodia relief, this country shape looks like a frying pan bottom. In the west, waters disperse their flow from the top of the mountains. A part of these waters flows down into the sea and another part is poured into the whole country area, mostly through rivers.

Those mountains are Kaun Damri, Pich Nil, Kirirom, Oral, Somkok, Kravanh, Tumpor, Tadei and so on... To the North of Tonle Sap Lake stand Dangrek mountain, Kulen hill, Tbeng hill and so on�and to its east, there is this very Mekong River. So, let us observe how much impact the poured waters including rainwaters and the Mekong water exert over the country area.

Theoretically calculated, the quantity of the poured waters amounts to 7 thousand millions cubic meters, Hence, this question is essential. How many diversion passages must there be so as to be able to spare the country a rude and long inundation? We only cannot rely on the Mekong and the Bassac rivers that are on the one hand congested on their flow across Vietnam and which are on the other hand located far away the sea.

Let's look carefully at the spot marked on the map. It's the bed of a waterway by which waters flow to the stung Prek Tnout in the dry season. I would like the excavation work for the canal to be made from this part between the feet of both hills and parallel to the stream bed to convey water flows into the sea in the rainy season, thus preventing them from being congested and from flooding the country as it has occurred up to now because the Mekong River cannot absorb all of the water flows (by calculations, the canal would be able to reduce almost by half the current flooding duration).

Let's carry out our project study within the scope of national and international interest, so that from theory this project could be implemented. If Cambodian people of this generation succeeded in saving their motherland from inundation disaster, that would proved them not to be inferior to the Khmers at angkorian era, but the problem rests on the fact that we are realist or not.


The Tonle-Sap basin is at all time the subject of a lot of articles run by either local or foreign press. The governments which succeed one another since the Sangkum Reah Niyum era raise from time to time the worrying problem of the basin which becomes shallower and shallower because of the Mekong alluvium sediments and of the aquatic forest felling which brings about littoral erosion by the rains and which makes fish shelter-less during their spawning season.

This problem eventually becomes something customary everybody has known for a longtime but no solution has been found to. Scientifically speaking, Tonle Sap lake is comparable to a sea. Its surface area, which is 2,500 square kilometres in the dry season, stretches out as far as 10,000 square kilometres in the rainy season. It is stocked with more than 200 fish species.

The problem to be studied is how to remove the mud from the bottom lake because if any original ways to tackle this problem were not discovered, our writing and our speech would become an empty word, for they would not find expression in any real activity. Tonle Sap basin is shallower and shallower and this shallowness doesn't wait for us because these things happen.

In general, Tonle Sap lake is 2-1m or less than 1m deep in the dry season. Thailand is much more concerned than Cambodia about this alarming disruption of the lake (this is really true !) because they know the Tonle Sap value much better than us. They estimate that Tonle Sap which is a source of wealth can feed about 10 to 12 millions people if it is efficiently protected and preserved in accordance with modern science.


On the ground of both international and national findings, it is our duty to make a study and to find way and means to rehabilitate this immense Lake as well as several other ponds and swamps all over our country which have been inclined to run dry . If we have water , we have fish and we have everything for the making of our people's life prosperous and happy . As regards the way and means , it is the government's policies.

How will the government manage to rehabilitate the Tonle Sap Lake?

I humbly suggest that the study work is entrusted to private persons' care, that is to say, to fishing lot takers, and to this effect the fishing lot lease duration needs to be extended to 7 or 10 years. Moreover, the takers are subjected to a - Condition : They are all strictly obliged to remove the mud under the government's planning which will tell them the places and the depth to rehabilitate in accordance with the lease duration of 7 or 10 years as stated in the contract schedule conditions. Once the rehabilitation completed, fishing lot lease duration could be maintained or increased at will.

Dredging work can be carried out in two ways as it was done in the past. The first way is with heavy engineering machines and consists in pumping up water as well as its mud's which are drained off at a nearby place as we did in Phnom Penh in 1933 when earth was pumped out of the Mekong River to fill up Kancho swamp with a view to building the Central Market (this market was inaugurated in 1937) or to fill in O-Russei swamp near Vat Koh pagoda.

To proceed in this way really requires a lot of money and many skilled workers because the work needs to be done by a specialized firm and for this reason it does not generate much job for inhabitants.

As for my suggestion of entrusting the rehabilitation work to the fishing lot takers, the latter will be given full scope to choose the way to carry out the rehabilitation for it is certain they will be able to afford to fulfil this task which is similar to the removal of gravel and sand out of the Mekong River. If we proceed in this way, on the one hand we need not disburse our hard currency for purchases from abroad and on the other hand inhabitants will have job to earn their living.

Most particularly, this project will surely be implemented and it will not only be a good plan on paper. Nevertheless, during the rehabilitation period, the government has to lease its fishing lots at low price and to accept that payment is settled after deducting the rehabilitation work cost.

Another important thing to be pointed out: the quantity of the mud sediments. If the rehabilitation is carried out by means of manual work, then where to transport and to dump them ? Because certainly removers will leave them on the lake bank nearby, and if mud sediments are left for a long time, they will be drained off back into the lake again when raining. Thus, that is the very problem to be solved.

It is said in "Cambodia Resuscitation" book that a railroad should be built all around Tonle Sap Lake for the mud alluvium transportation to rice fields of the provinces the soil of which is not fertile. If this could be done, it would be perfect. But if the government cannot afford to financing it, it must be dropped and we resort to others means to solve the mud alluvium dumping because first of all we have to save up for the lake rehabilitation achievement and to benefit from this source following the example of Angkor Wat.

If this study is accompanied by such an explanation, that's to emphasize that the Tonle Sap rehabilitation study must not become a dead letter and that we have to start by our own means because it only depends on our seriousness: The lake is to be rehabilitated or to be let run dry?

This statement is only a small part of an initiative learned persons on the subject are requested to carry out improvements to -Cambodia still has countless fields to start developing as well (I request the government to organize a technical meeting to debate about this matter).

Besides the current study work, plans for the future focusing on overall protecting measures are needed so as to prevent the Tonle Sap Lake from running dry as at the present time. There is an easy way but we cannot start it at once because it is dependent upon our budget and therefore it could only be used in 20 or 30 years. This mean consists in digging a canal or a stream around the whole Tonle Sap Lake.

This canal or stream is 30 or 35m wide and 10 or 15m deep everywhere. This canal arrangement certainly is an effective way to prevent the lake from silting up: If any mud water is drained off towards the lake, its sediment will drop down into the arranged stream and the silt need only be removed once every 10 or 15 years, which is easier than to remove it from the bottom lake. In addition to that, there is another advantage: We can go by boat or by small motorboat and we can transport everything in the dry season.

The canal or stream has to be dug at 150 or 200 m away from the lake bank, an estimate when the lake water goes down at its lowest level. Besides, this canal has to be linked to the lake in several places by means of small diversion water ways in order to facilitate the access to the lake. As everyone knows, although canal is rehabilitated or dug, the Tonle Sap Lake still runs dry every year because water always brings alluvium sediments which we can do nothing against but regularly remove once every 45 to 50 years.

Cambodian people are very fortunate to possess Tonle Sap Lake as their natural wealth. So, we have to do our utmost to take care of it and to protect it. In this respect, I ask that a Tonle Sap sub-province or province be created by cutting up some lands out of the five provinces around the lake to form its territory in order to have an appointed administrator to be in charge of really and exclusively with an administration and enough budget to keep thing in working order.

If we keep on letting the five provinces run Tonle Sap Lake in the way they have done up to now, we will get nothing effective, and sooner or later, this lake will be much shallow, will run dry and will disappear and then, the 5 provinces will only shift the blame on each other.


Very particularly, the State should have a well defined short-long term project: to turn the Tonle Sap Lake into an interesting site or a tourist centre by including it into Angkor Wat tour in the dry season as well as in the rainy season (in the dry season, go sightseeing along the canal or around the lake).

It is worth noticing that developed countries all over the world centre their budget revenue collection on tourism they label "smokeless industry". For this reason, they all try by every means to fascinate tourists so that the latter come and visit their country .As far as we are concerned, we have to carry out improvements to our natural scenery when time permits so that it can serve tourism field.

This text is totally extracted from the book " Cambodia Resuscitation" published in January 1994. Nowadays, even if Tonle Sap Lake is to rank cultural property or world heritage, this request will not hamper its admission process, but on the contrary will make its management easy.

In the 1945 French document, it is stated that Tonle Sap Lake is 160km long, 35km wide and 2 or 1m or less deep in the dry season. In the rainy season, its width is about 60km and its depth 16 m (11m deep in some other documents). If we take a detached view of the Tonle Sap Lake, its shape appears to the eyes like 8 figure or like a virgin girl in her growing age, and its middle looks like the hip of a woman in her beauty age. Also Read: Stung Treng Hydropower Dam

Canals or streams around Tonle Sap basin into which water sediments from upstairs are drained off. They are to be dug at about 150 or 200m away from the lake Bank (when the water goes down at its lowest level). Their width can be 25m and their depth 10m.

  • Diversion waterways linked to the Tonle Sap Lake. They are to be separated from each other by a distance of 5km in order to facilitate transportation.
  • Sources of sediments from erosion around Tonle Sap Lake. Those sediments will drop into the canal. Also Read: Implementation


  • Medal of France-Indochina Remembrance
  • Medal of National Defense with sash of the order of National Defense
  • Medal of Honer de l'ACADEMIE Carpentras-France for Development and International relations
  • Chairman and Founding member Vice -President of French -Cambodia Committee of Nice -France

Nice, February 2002
N 29, Rue Arm�d�e VII, 06300 Nice France
Villa 143, Tuol Tachann Road Prek Eng commune N� 140, Bd Norodom, Phnom Penh

Villa 143, Tuol Tachann Road Prek Eng commune
N� 140, Norodom Blv, Phnom Penh

His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk

The King of The Kingdom of Cambodia


  • His Royal Highness Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh
  • His Excellency Samdech Hun Sen, Second Prime Minister

Dear Excellencies:

I have received a letter dated January 10th from Mr. NY Leng suggesting that Stung Prek Tnout river should be extended as far as the sea by digging through Kaong Sre Ambel.

I would like to forward the above said letter to your Excellencies for your high consideration. Please accept, Excellencies, the assurance of my highest consideration.


Norodom Sihanouk

Phnom Penh February 13th 1997

(Royal message of His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, the King of the Kingdom of Cambodia, commenting on the first study-research work submitted on January 20th 1997. Un-official

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