PM Defends Hydropower Projects

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday blasted “extreme environmentalists” for opposing hydropower dam projects, stating that the country needs to make sacrifices for the privilege of electricity.

Speaking at the inauguration of the Stung Tatai Hydropower plant in Koh Kong province, Mr. Hun Sen told the audience that no development comes without “paying a cost.”

“[I] would like to explain that if we want to get more than 240-megawatt [power], we need to pay [the] cost on a number of issues such as the matter of flooding more than 2,000 hectares of forest here,” Mr. Hun Sen said, in reference to the dam, which the China National Heavy Machinery Corporation began building in 2010 at an estimated cost of $540 million.

The prime minister then took aim at environmental activists who oppose the development of hydropower projects across the country.

“There are a number of extreme environmentalists who always oppose the developments,” he said. “They oppose everything, so what if we made resin torches and delivered them to their homes and then cut off power from their houses because they just think of one side?”

Mr. Hun Sen asked rhetorically if the country would prefer to turn toward nuclear power, citing an offer he received from Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev during his recent trip to Cambodia to help build such a facility.

“If so, it’s pretty clear that there will be a big protest opposing it,” he said, noting that Thailand, Vietnam and Laos would also oppose it due to a potential nuclear explosion.

Alex Gonzalez-Davidson—the co-founder of environmental NGO Mother Nature, who was arrested and deported by authorities in February—said the disconnect between the government and environmentalists needs to be bridged “as soon as possible.”

“Environmentalists need and welcome electricity, especially if it has been produced at home rather than imported from abroad, but this energy must not come at the cost of destroying the environment, antagonizing the will of the people, or violating the country’s laws,” he said.

(Additional reporting by George Wright)

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