Ministry Fails to Settle Fears Over Koh Kong Dam

A meeting at the Ministry of Mines and Energy on Friday about plans for a controversial hydropower dam in Koh Kong province failed to assuage fears among those trying to stop the project that construction had already been approved.

A community of several hundred ethnic minority Chong people are slated to be evicted from their ancestral land to make way for the project and are being helped by youth groups, activist monks and the NGO Mother Nature to try and stop it.

During Friday’s meeting, officials from the ministry and the Chinese firm behind the project, Sinohydro (Cambodia) United, explained why Cambodia needed such dams and insisted that this particular project in Koh Kong was not yet approved, according to Mother Nature founder Alex Gonzalez-Davidson.

“They said they were going to go ahead and do the research, and meet with the community, and eventually [meet with] civil society, and then they will make a decision.”

But he said the project’s opponents remained dubious, having seen documents suggesting that the project had been approved and heard from local officials who have confirmed as much.

“We don’t trust them at all because everything that comes to us says they’re going to start construction,” he said.

He said also that none of the company or government officials at the meeting, which the ministry had called, would identify themselves.

Officials with the ministry and the company could not be reached for comment.

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