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People protest against the construction of the Don Sahong dam in 2014.
People protest against the construction of the Don Sahong dam in 2014. Heng Chivoan

CSOs seek Lao dam discussion at summit

Frustrated by Laos ploughing ahead with its controversial Don Sahong dam despite past promises to consult neighbouring countries, Cambodian civil society representatives have called on Prime Minister Hun Sen, US President Barack Obama and ASEAN chair Le Luong Minh to raise the issue at next week’s US-ASEAN summit.

“All concerns that we sent, the Laotian government seemed to ignore. And recently, Laos publicly declared that the dam project has been discussed with [Mekong River Commission] member states, but it is not the truth,” said the deputy director of the Rivers Coalition in Cambodia, Yok Senglong, at a press conference yesterday morning.

Tep Vannara, executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia, meanwhile, described the project as a human rights violation and warned it would contribute to climate change.

US Embassy spokesman Jay Raman said in an email yesterday that while the US government does not have a position on the Don Sahong dam specifically, it does “support sustainable, environmentally responsible development and encourage consultations among countries in the region to ensure future growth does not come at the expense of this important [Mekong] ecosystem”.

Kong Chamroeun, a spokesman for Hun Sen’s cabinet, declined to comment on the civil society groups’ request.

In 2014, the World Wildlife Fund cautioned that the dam would have “repercussions for food security and nutrition for at least 75 per cent of Cambodia’s population, and the nation’s economy”.

The dam will block a channel of the Mekong River that the WWF says is the only suitable channel for year-round fish migration between Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.

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