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Chinese officials to investigate Stung Atai dam disaster


A worker walks near the construction site of the Stung Atai dam in Pursat province in January 2011. Photograph: Jeremy Holden/Phnom Penh Post

China has reportedly dispatched embassy officials to investigate a major breach at the Chinese-built Stung Atai dam in Pursat province on Sunday, which swept away four men, three of whom are still missing. 

Yang Tian Yue, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh, told local news website Free Press Magazine that embassy officials wanted to find out the real reason why the accident happened.

“The Cambodian government regarded this accident as small, but the Chinese embassy has to go to investigate,” he reportedly said.

(Cambodia) Hydropower Development Co Ltd, a subsidiary of the state-run China Datang Corporation, is building the $255 million, 120 megawatt dam in Veal Veng district’s O’som commune.

Yue has previously said the company has been searching for the missing men while investigating how a pipeline burst at the upper reservoir of the two-stage dam.

When the Post tried to call China Datang Corporation yesterday, a woman answering the phone said it was merely the administrative office and declined to give numbers to the relevant department.

Calls to other numbers for the company were unanswered.

Yang Tian Yue also did not respond to inquiries from the Post.

Three days after the incident, Veal Veng district police chief Theang Leng said yesterday his officials were still having difficulty concluding whether the three missing men were dead or alive.

“We are looking for them... the bodies will float on the water if they died,” he said.

China Datang, however, appears to be holding out little hope for their safe return.

Chhe Chhiv, governor of Veal Veng district, said yesterday that the Chinese firm had already paid compensation to the families of the missing men, though he was unsure of the precise amount.

Opposition Sam Rainsy Party whip Son Chhay said he will raise this case in the National Assembly today and call for the formation of an independent investigative committee.

“We don’t know why government closed this case, in fact, this case needs to be investigated to find the real things,” he said.

Construction on the Stung Atai dam was launched in 2008 through a Build Operate Transfer contract that will leave it in the company’s possession for 34 years after its completion, scheduled for 2013.

To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at



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