Environmental groups and a local community leader in Stung Treng province have called for a nationwide boycott of the popular Angkor Beer brand to protest the beverage company’s links to a controversial hydropower dam to be built in Laos.
Laos announced earlier this month that it will commence construction on the 260-MW Don Sahong dam, which is located about 1 km from the Cambodian border in Stung Treng province.
Environmentalists say the dam could block fish migratory routes, which would be devastating for communities downriver in Cambodia.
“One hand is producing beer to destroy our Cambodian health, while the other hand is building the dam which will destroy our fishery sectors,” Siek Mekong, commune chief of Srekor commune in Stung Treng’s Sesan district, said Monday.
Sesan district is home to two major tributaries of the Mekong River: the Sesan and Srepok rivers.
The company in charge of the dam construction is Malaysian investment company Mega First Corporation Bhd.
At the helm of Mega First is executive chairman Goh Nan Kioh. Mega First representatives said last week that Mr. Goh is also the director of Cambodian beverage giant Cambrew, maker of the popular Angkor Beer, which is 50 percent Malaysian-owned in a joint-venture with Carlsberg Group.
Cambrew became the largest brewery in the country after the Malaysian investors assumed control of the Angkor Brewery in Sihanoukville in 1991.
Meach Mean, coordinator for the 3S Rivers Protection Network—a local advocacy group for communities affected by hydropower development—also criticized the Malaysian firm’s dual role in beer and dams, and also called for a boycott of Cambrew products.
“The people who are making business from our country are also destroying our country,” Mr. Mean claimed.
“To the Cambodian government, the neighboring countries and to the people who drink Angkor Beer, please consider this if you love the Mekong River.”
“We should not continue to support drinking this beer,” he said.
Last week, Mega First representatives claimed that the dam would improve the environment and facilitate better fish migration, though they would not release the dam’s environmental impact assessment report.
Calls to Cambrew’s brewery and sales and marketing department in Cambodia went unanswered Monday. A representative at Cambrew’s office in Malaysia declined to comment, saying only that it was unlikely that Mr. Goh would answer questions.
Yeong Chee Neng, Mega First’s project director for the Don Sahong dam, said Cambrew was Mr. Goh’s “private business.”
“It’s up to them [to boycott]. After all, [Mr. Goh] is not a major shareholder [of Cambrew], so they are hurting other people,” Mr. Yeong said, adding that he could not comment on Cambrew as the two companies are unrelated.
“It’s not linked to Mega First.”
Pianporn Deetes, Thai coordinator for river advocacy group International Rivers, said companies should be more mindful of how they invest in foreign countries.
“[T]he Don Sahong dam, which, as suggested by many scientific researchers, is likely to be devastating for the Mekong fisheries,” Ms. Pianporn said in an email. “The impacts will be on local and regional food security, especially for those in riverine communities—including millions in Cambodia who depends on the Mekong’s resources.”
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