Chong Villagers Block Chinese Engineers From Reaching Dam

A group of 20 ethnic minority Chong villagers in Koh Kong province’s Areng Valley blocked the road Friday to prevent a group of Chinese engineers from reaching the site of a controversial proposed dam.

A number of Chong villagers have been intermittently camping near the road leading to the planned Stung Chhay Areng dam site for the past two months, hoping to stop a team of Chinese engineers trying to survey the area. They have already successfully stopped the workers twice before.

Ven Vorn, a village representative, said they had blocked the road again Friday at around 11 a.m. in Thmar Baing district’s Russei Chrum commune after they received an alert that two cars carrying Chinese passengers would try to drive through.

“They told us that they were going to study the impact of the dam project,” Mr. Vorn said. “We don’t want them to study the impact because even if they find out it has a big impact, they will make a report that the impact is small, and finally the dam will be built.”

He said that after being blocked, the group of engineers decided to drive back to the district town, and that around 40 to 50 villagers would monitor the road overnight to make sure that no engineers slipped back through.

The 108-megawatt Stung Areng dam, to be built by the Chinese company Sinohydro, is expected to cause hundreds of families to lose their land and flood around 20,000 total hectares, including key habitat areas for the endangered Siamese Crocodile.

In Kongchet, provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, called on the government Friday to cancel the project, saying that it had become clear that the dam would not serve the needs of the local community.

“The government, especially the Ministry of Mines and Energy, should wake themselves up and cancel the project because everything the government has done, the community residents are not satisfied with,” he said.

However, Pich Siyun, director of the Koh Kong provincial mines and energy department, said that the assessment of the project will move forward and if the Chong continue their roadblock, authorities will take action against them.

“It is not right that villagers have blocked their traveling. They just came to study the impact of the dam project,” Mr. Siyun said.

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