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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Criticism grows over plans for Sesan draft law

Criticism grows over plans for Sesan draft law

Rights groups and opposition parties have criticised a draft law relating to the Lower Sesan 2 dam in Stung Treng province, which is expected to be debated and approved in the National Assembly next week.

Opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay said yesterday that details of the draft law – which outlines the expenses of the $781 million hydropower project and the relocation of about 800 families – contained “unbelievable and unacceptable” figures and still indicated the involvement of Electricity Vietnam International (EVNI), a subsidiary of Vietnam’s state-owned energy provider.

“It’s quite strange,” Chhay said. “I’ve never seen a project quite like this. Construction itself is going to cost $450 million. Machinery will cost $232 million.

Relocation will cost almost $40 million, but we don’t even know what people will get. I’ve heard they’re getting peanuts,” Chhay said.

He expected, however, that the law would be passed quickly by the National Assembly next week. It would then be sent to the Senate.

Cambodia’s Royal Group and Chinese company Hydrolancang International Energy Company signed an agreement in November to construct the Lower Sesan 2 at the confluence of the Sesan and Srepok rivers.

Environmental groups have predicted that tens of thousands of villagers upstream and downstream will be affected.

Chhay said the draft law suggested EVNI – which had supposedly withdrawn from the project after holding a 51 per cent share – was still involved.

“In this document, the Vietnamese company still keeps a 10 per cent stake.”

A separate document seen by the Post also suggests EVNI remains involved.

A Vietnamese Embassy spokesman could not be reached.

Villagers, including more than 1,000 slated for relocation from the proposed reservoir site in a much-criticised environmental impact assessment study in 2009, have complained of being kept in the dark about construction and relocation plans.

In a statement yesterday, NGO collectives The Rivers Coalition of Cambodia and Housing and Land Rights Network said they were disappointed with the draft law.

“It did not include public consultation with civil society and those who will suffer directly from the project,” the statement says, adding the groups were concerned that four villages had been excluded from relocation compensation, reducing the figure from 1,025 families to 797.

“We... would like to request a clear and public explanation from the company and relevant authorities about figures set in the draft law,” it said.

Kith Meng, chairman of Royal Group, said he could not talk because it was Chinese New Year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shane Worrell at shane.worrell@phnompenhpost.com

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