Work stopped at a quarry supplying the construction of the Kamchay dam,
with local residents saying blasting at the site is showering their
farms with chunks of stone.
The Kamchay dam in Kampot province is expected to be operational by 2012.
VILLAGERS in Kampot province's Teuk Chhu area have blocked access to a quarry supplying stone for the construction of the US$600 million Kamchay hydropower dam, demanding that the Chinese firm building the dam pay compensation for property destroyed by blasting at the site.
Try Chhoun, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said that about 30 Thvear Thmei village representatives blockaded the road Monday morning, angered that the Sinohydro Kamchay Hydroelectric Project Company, a Chinese state firm, had reneged on agreements to pay extra compensation to locals impacted by the operations.
"Sinohydro is breaking stone on a mountain near Thvear Thmei village and promised to pay the villagers according to the distance rock falls down into the village," she said.
Villager representative Korm Penh, 58, claimed her house, farm and mango trees had been destroyed by showers of flying rocks loosed from the side of the mountain by Sinohydro's blasts.
"The explosions of rock have damaged our plantations, and villagers cannot access their corn and beans because they are scared," she told the Post.
I am very scared that [rocks] will fall into the village like bombs.
"I am very scared that [rocks] will fall into the village like bombs."
Korm Penh added that the company and local authorities had promised to compensate the villagers according to the distance the rock was flying from the quarry, but they had received no payments after a year of waiting.
"The rock is flying about 300 metres from the mountain and they promised to compensate us for 100 metres," she said.
"But their promise has been postponed from one week to another, so we have blocked the road until the problem is resolved."
One provincial official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the government granted Sinohydro a licence to break stone on Phnom Dom Mornprey, a local hill, but that the effects of the quarrying had extended well beyond the 5-hectare plot purchased by the company for this purpose.
"The company bought 5 hectares of land from the villagers, but the affected area is larger than what the company bought," the official said.
"We have estimated that the affected area is about 10 hectares. The villagers want to sell their land to the company, but the company has refused to buy."
But Shu Jiang, deputy managing director of Sinohydro, said that the company had only "temporarily" leased the 5 hectares at a rate of $1 per square metre per year to accommodate the "small stones" that fell from the quarry site.
"I think that is a reasonable price. We don't want that much land," he said Tuesday.
"The local people want my company [to lease] more land so they can get more money."
Shu Jiang acknowledged that villagers had yet to be paid for the lease, but said the company was unable to pay while residents refused to come to an agreement about the size of the lease.
"When they agree, I will pay them immediately," he said, adding that local officials were currently in charge of negotiations with the villagers.
The provincial official added that although the road was still blocked as of Tuesday, there had been no violence and that officials were holding talks with Sinohydro. Kampot district Governor Khuy Sean declined to comment Tuesday.