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Answers demanded on dam site

Local residents swim in the reservoir where the controversial Lower Sesan II Dam is planned in Stung Treng province
Local residents swim in the reservoir where the controversial Lower Sesan II Dam is planned in Stung Treng province this year. Vireak Mai

Answers demanded on dam site

A month after a company owned by tycoon Kith Meng was ordered to suspend logging the reservoir area of the controversial Lower Sesan II dam, the government yesterday threatened legal action against it if its orders aren’t followed.

In a letter obtained by the Post yesterday, the Council of Ministers demands that the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries explain whether the logging ban on Ang & Associates Lawyers, a subsidiary of Meng’s Royal Group, is being implemented.

In the letter, signed by Ouk Bun Uy, secretary of state at the Council of Ministers, dated November 13, the ministry is told that logging began in the area before a number of procedures relating to the dam’s construction were carried out.

“They’ve logged instead. Why?” the letter reads.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said yesterday that he had not received any response from the ministry.

“But we will take action according to the law,” he said, referring to both the ministry and Meng’s company.

From April to when the ban was imposed – via an order on October 16 – Ang & Associates was logging parts of the reservoir area at the dam site in Stung Treng province.

As part of the ban, it was also announced that a commission of inquiry would be set up to investigate the operations of Ang & Associates.

Minister of Agriculture Ouk Rabun and Secretary of State Ty Sokun could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Logging has not been occurring inside the reservoir since the ban, said Seak Mekong, Srekor commune chief in Stung Treng’s Sesan district.

But representatives of Meng’s company had been transporting already-felled luxury timber out of the area, he added.

“Our people are wondering whether they are collecting the luxury wood for money for their investment – because they have done nothing but log in there,” he said.

Mekong also alleged that logging was taking place outside the reservoir area in a community forest that villagers rely on for their livelihoods.

“This project does not help people but depletes the natural resources instead,” he said.

Hydrolancang International Energy, a subsidiary of the state-owned China Huaneng Group, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Royal Group almost a year ago for an initial two-year cash injection into the 400-megawatt dam that environmental groups say will devastate riverside communities.

Earlier this year, Ang & Associates reportedly inked a joint-venture agreement with local businessman Sok Vanna, the brother of Sokimex founder Sok Kong, to clear the 36,000-hectare site in preparation for the $816 million project.

Meng could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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