Koh Kong Villagers Block Road in Effort to Stop Chinese Dam

About 100 villagers in Koh Kong province’s Areng Valley blocked a road Friday leading to the land a Chi­nese company has rented to store construction material and heavy machinery for the proposed Stung Chhay Areng dam, which would require the eviction of hundreds of families.

“We blocked the road because we don’t want to allow the company to transport equipment to the construction site and we want the two Chi­nese engineers to leave this area,” Sok Raksmey, a 25-year-old representative for the Choan minority, who live in the valley, said on Friday. 

The community in Thma Baing district, he said, was ready to stage more roadblocks if they see machinery transported to the proposed site.

Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, co-founder of the NGO Mother Nature, said that about 10 police and military police officers were stationed at the site since Friday evening, several hours after the peaceful, 8-hours- long roadblock had concluded.

“The villagers threatened to set the police post on fire if the two Chinese men don’t leave the site. So right now, we saw two pickup trucks carrying police and military police to the site,” said Mr. Gonzalez-Davidson.

Earlier this month, Sinohydro (Cambodia) United Ltd. rented land in Thma Baing district’s Chumnap commune to build a storage facility that would house excavators, bulldozers and other machinery used to build the 108-megawatt dam.

In Kongchet, provincial coordinator for local rights group Licadho, said that neither the government nor Sinohydro, which earlier this year took over the concession to build the dam from another company, has sought any dialogue with the local community that will be most affected.

Although no date has been set for the start of construction, the recent visits of Chinese engineers and the construction of the storage facility have led residents to fear that construction of the dam, which will flood 2,000 hectares of land, will start soon.

The land to be flooded will include forests in the Cardamom Protected Forest that are considered sacred to the Choan, and environmentalists have raised concerns over the future of rare plants and endangered animals, such as the Siamese Crocodile.

Sinohydro has received permission from the Ministry of Energy and Mines to occupy the disputed site, said Keo Nybora, Thma Baing district deputy governor.

“They [Chinese engineers] came here a few days ago to collect data and prepare a place to store their equipment,” he said. “The Chinese engineers have permission from the Min­istry to stay here from February 14 to June 25 to conduct more studies.”

© 2014, The Cambodia Daily. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in print, electronically, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission.