In what could be the latest sign that authorities are pushing ahead with the Areng Valley hydropower dam, Vietnam Military Telecommunications Group has sent engineers into the valley in Koh Kong province to scout for locations where its local subsidiary, Metfone, could build mobile phone signal towers.
Nhong Dinthan, vice managing director of Metfone, last week confirmed that the company intends to expand its mobile phone coverage to the valley, before he met with officials overseeing studies on the viability of the controversial Stung Cheay Areng dam.
Dinthan did not respond to requests for comment.
Metfone is a wholly owned subsidiary of Viettel, the largest company run by the Vietnamese Ministry of Defence.
Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, founder of NGO Mother Nature, said two groups of Vietnamese engineers had visited the valley in recent weeks.
“They were saying they wouldn’t cover the whole valley, and that it would be set up by January,” he said, adding that the proposed site for a tower was in an area previously considered as a relocation site for ethnic Chorng villagers expected to be displaced by the construction of the dam.
“According to the Vietnamese engineers … they’d been looking into it for a while, into an area they know won’t be flooded,” he said. “That should give them perfect cover for a maximum of 500 people living in the vicinity of that area.”
The proposed 108-MW Areng hydropower dam has met increasingly stiff opposition from local residents and activists since Chinese state-owned mega-firm Sinohydro took over the concession to build the dam late last year.
Khnhel Bora, director of SBK Research and Development – contracted by Sinohydro to carry out the resettlement studies at the dam site – said yesterday that the authorities and Sinohydro were poised to approve the plan for the dam once the final few relocation sites had been identified.