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areng_engineers
Chinese engineers prepare to go out in to the field in the Areng Valley. They are researching the feasibility of the Cheay Areng hydroelectric dam that would flood the entire valley. LUKE DUGGLEBY/INTERNATIONAL RIVERS

PM jibes: I'll deploy rockets in Areng

Prime Minister Hun Sen has jibed that he could deploy military hardware should anyone try and create an “autonomous zone” in the Areng Valley, where activists are bitterly fighting a proposed dam.

In a speech on Tuesday, the premier also took aim at Areng Valley activist Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, who was deported yesterday, condemning him for organising road blocks to stop companies from entering the area.

“If you want to make an autonomous zone [in Areng], please come, and we will put BM21 [multiple rocket launcher vehicles] in that area, but I don’t accuse them seriously like that,” Hun Sen said, before attacking Areng activists for obstructing company officials.

However, the premier also publicly confirmed for the first time that no decision on whether to dam the valley would be made until after the next election and even went as far as to say that such a project would be a “disaster” environmentally, squandering billions of potential tourism revenue.

“[In] my own opinion, I want to keep it for the younger generation, and it’s the same as the Chi Phat area, and [we] estimate it could earn $20 billion but instead of getting about $20 billion, we will lose around 20,000 hectares of forested of land.

“If we lost 20,000 hectares of forest, it would be a disaster and that area is the elephant crossing spot. If we do decide to develop, our sea over there will not be blue anymore, it turns to red sea, because when they're digging the land, it will float into the sea.”

San Mala, a co-founder of the grassroots conservation NGO Mother Nature, who was arrested along with Gonzalez-Davidson yesterday but later released, said Hun Sen's remarks were a direct threat to his organisation.

“When he said he will do anything if anyone tries to create autonomous zone, this is a heavy comment from him directly to our team, who have always tried to stop the Chinese company or any expert that wants to study [there],” Mala said.

If the government was serious about halting the Areng Valley dam, he added, they would stop surveying the area and start promoting it through the Ministry of Tourism.

Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party chief whip Son Chhay, himself a longtime opponent of plans to dam the Areng Valley, questioned the sincerity of the prime minister's seemingly newfound love of nature.

“Because the population of this country starts to become involved in helping Alex [Gonzalez-Davidson] to protect this river, he has no choice but to say he loves the river,” Chhay said, adding that the premier had done nothing to halt mass illegal logging in the same area.

Gonzalez-Davidson was deported yesterday after refusing to leave the country despite overstaying his visa, which the government had refused to renew.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DAVID BOYLE

Correction: A quote from Prime Minister Hun Sen in this article regarding the deployment of BM21 multiple rocket launcher vehicles has been extended to reflect that the premier's tone was not entirely serious. The headline for the article has also been adjusted to reflect this.
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savath.pou's picture

My open letter to
Samdech Akkak Moha Sena Padey Decho Hun Sen
Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia

Sydney, 25th February 2015.
Dear Samdech Prime Minister,
You have made a Spanish environment activist under the name of Alejandro Gonzales-Davidson very famous, but at the same time very hurt, by giving orders to your immigration officers to forcefully expel him from Cambodia on the evening of Monday 23rd February 2015. You may argue that immigration officers in any country in the world like France, the UK, the USA, China, Russia, South Africa or Argentina would do the same when a foreign visitor has his/her visa expired and resisted leaving the host country. Samdech, you are right. However, Mr. Alex Gonzales-Davidson is no ordinary visitor. He’s the co-founder of the Mother Nature NGO licensed by your Ministry of Interior to operate in Cambodia 10 years already during which period he has captured the hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands of the Khmer people living here in Cambodia and around the world simply because he’s done the right thing by voicing concerns about the fast disappearance of Cambodia’s forests while not many Cambodians dare to alarm you on this particular environmental issue.
Dear Samdech Prime Minister,
You have been leaving your footprints on every single square inch of the whole country of Cambodia since you were a 17 and a half year old boy when you voluntarily answered to then Prince Norodom Sihanouk solemn 1970 appeal to join His revolutionary armed forces in the jungle in order to push back the US-bankrolled Lon Nol/Sirik Matak regime. You know full well how dense Cambodia’s forest was at that time and it remained so until you became Second Prime Minister of the Royal Government of Cambodia as a result of the very controversial UNTAC-supervised general elections in May 1993. But now, Cambodia’s forests are almost gone in the space of 22 years and they are gone on your watch as the Captain of Neavea Kampuchea in Khmer, and Cambodia Ship in English.
Dear Samdech Prime Minister,
You have joined with the whole Khmer nation to proudly celebrate the 30th anniversary of your prime-ministership, one of the longest in the world, on exactly the 2015 Valentine’s Day. It was a pleasant coincidence because, on that day of February 14th, the whole Christian world remembers, strengthens and celebrates LOVE. To everybody’s surprise though, NINE days later, you gave orders to your immigration officers to expel from Cambodia a young foreigner who has reportedly a Cambodian heart and whose only crime is to LOVE our Cambodian forests. Samdech, does this particular episode make sense at all? Frankly speaking, I don’t think it does.
Dear Samdech Prime Minister,
For the sake of your personal honor as one of the world’s longest Prime Minister and the honor of the entire Khmer nation universally known as the most peace loving race on earth, I beg you to give orders to your immigration officers to grant Mr. Alejandro Gonzales-Davidson a new visa soon after he expresses his sincere interests to return and to re-apply.
Please accept, Samdech Prime Minister, the assurance of my most profound respect and my highest consideration.
Savath Pou,
Senator Expelled.
Email address: savathpou@yahoo.com.au
Mobile: 61434383414
***PS: Earlier this morning, I have submitted an identical comment to the Post with a few minor mistakes. I prefer this one to be inserted in your comment column. Sorry for any inconvenience.

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