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Meeting suggests dam project moving ahead

Despite reports that Prime Minister Hun Sen recently offered assurances that construction of the controversial Stung Cheay Areng hydropower dam would not be allowed to begin in the near future, local officials are allegedly pushing forward with plans to relocate villagers.

Multiple provincial, district and village officials, as well as police and military police, held a meeting on Saturday at the Somraong primary school in Koh Kong province’s Pralay commune to discuss the dam, according to a document compiled by NGO Mother Nature, based on local reports.

“The aim of the meeting was to try and get the villagers to accept to move to the relocation site and accept compensation,” the document says, adding that just nine villagers were present.

Two of the nine “asked the company to go to the valley”, to conduct assessments, while seven rejected the plans, it says. Community representative Ven Vorn could not be reached yesterday.

Touch Savuth, Thmar Bang district governor, admitted that he attended the weekend meeting. But, he said, he just went to “visit and talk to the people in the Areng about what their concerns are about the dam plan”.

“Those people are just worried about losing their land and fish,” he said, claiming that he did not discuss relocation or compensation plans during the meeting.

Earlier this month, Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy said Hun Sen had assured him, on the sidelines of a parliamentary session in which the project was discussed, that the dam’s construction had not been definitively decided and that it may be left to future generations.

Ith Praing, secretary of state at the Ministry of Mines and Energy, could not be reached yesterday, but he had said earlier this month that the ministry has “no activities in that area” and that “nothing new” is happening.

Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, the director of Mother Nature, said that the Areng dam has been “pushed by the provincial and district authorities”, who are “willing to get it done however possible”.

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