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Mixed signals on Areng dam

Chinese engineers prepare to conduct a feasibility study in Koh Kong province for the proposed Areng Valley dam project in 2012
Chinese engineers prepare to conduct a feasibility study in Koh Kong province for the proposed Areng Valley dam project in 2012. INTERNATIONAL RIVERS

Mixed signals on Areng dam

Officials lately have been talking up the proposed Stung Cheay Areng hydropower dam, seemingly ignoring Prime Minister Hun Sen’s pledge not to proceed with the project under this government, a senior opposition parliamentarian said yesterday.

The comments came after Ay Khan, ruling Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker for Koh Kong province, led an armed delegation to the Areng Valley over the weekend, where he sought to publicise the purported benefits of the dam.

“I think it’s quite strange after Hun Sen clearly announced many times that there would be no action on the dam until 2018,” Son Chhay, a Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker for Phnom Penh, said yesterday. “But we heard various CPP members saying otherwise.”

The head of Electricite du Cambodge “was saying the Areng Dam would benefit the country a lot”.

“Who is leading this government? I’m not sure Hun Sen is leading anymore, because it seems some people are not respecting his policy.… I’m not quite sure what Mr Ay Khan was doing in that area. Normally, the MPs have a very limited role in doing anything like that. He is doing something against the prime minister’s policy.”

Khan visited villagers in the Areng Valley in Koh Kong on Saturday, escorted by about 40 security officials. The CPP lawmaker could not be reached yesterday.

Chhay said he had it on good authority that the capacity to make use of electricity that would be generated by the dam was not in place.

“By allowing the dam to be built, this will mean that they have to buy electricity they can’t use,” he said.

“So that could be a big waste of money from the budget, so the government is trying to stall for time,” he added. “But the Chinese, because they have bribed the government with a lot of money to get the dam built, they are going around the prime minister to try to get the dam approved.”

A spokesman for Sinohydro declined to comment.

Hun Sen in a speech last month following the deportation of prominent Spanish environmentalist Alex Gonzalez-Davidson said that the area should be developed into an eco-tourism site.

Sinohydro Resources, a holding company for Sinohydro Group, was granted approval in February last year for six months of studies at the dam site. It has thus far been unable to complete the necessary impact assessments.

Sinohydro took over the concession from another Chinese firm early last year.

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