Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Electricity for Vietnam

Electricity for Vietnam

Electricity for Vietnam

People navigate a boat down the Sesan river, past Kbal Romea village, in Stung Treng province’s Sesan district last month.

An official from the Ministry of Environment admitted yesterday that electricity generated from the controversial Lower Sesan 2 Dam, a project touted as ensuring cheaper energy prices in Cambodia, would be exported to Vietnam.

The admission, made at an NGO-led workshop held with indigenous community representatives in Phnom Penh, came after a United States-based fisheries expert and consultant for conservation group International Rivers estimated that only about 1 percent of the dam’s capacity would be used locally, with the rest being sold to Cambodia’s eastern neighbour.

The proposed US$816 million, 400-megawatt dam is set to begin construction later this year in Stung Treng province by the Cambodia-Vietnam Hydropower Company, a joint venture that is 51-percent owned by the EVNI Joint Stock Company of Vietnam and 49-percent owned by local conglomerate the Royal Group.

Prach Sun, a secretary of state for the Ministry of Environment, initially said yesterday that the potential of the Lower Sesan 2 Dam to fulfill local energy needs outweighed the environmental and social damage it may inflict on indigenous communities.

“The development of the Lower Sesan 2 Dam will have some effects on natural resources, but electricity is the most important resource for the country and we must ensure the development of hydroelectric dams will be achieved,” he said at the event, which was attended by over 60 villager representatives from Rattanakiri and Stung Treng who say they will be affected by the project.

“The relocation of people and the price of electricity decreasing will contribute to the development of the country,” Prach Sun said.

Danh Serey, deputy director of the Environment Impact Assessment department at the Ministry of Environment, echoed these comments, stressing the need for increased energy supplies in Cambodia.

“Cambodia needs electricity, we need to develop electric areas, and hydropower is much better than other sources – this is why the Lower Sesan 2 Dam is so important,” he said.

Yet the forum took an unexpected turn when fisheries expert and NGO consultant Ian Baird said that there was no evidence to support the claims that the electricity generated would be used in Cambodia.
“The plan of the company is to export all of this electricity to Vietnam,” he said.

“So I don’t know why we are talking about this [electricity] as being used in Cambodia,” he said, adding that Cambodia will be unable to even make use of the 400MW of power from the project without a national electrical grid. “This is not about electricity for Cambodia. It is not about reducing the cost of electricity in Cambodia,” Baird said. “They are trying to maximise their profit. It’s not for the benefit of the country – these are private companies.”

The comments prompted one representative from the Ministry of Environment to quickly change his stance.

Danh Serey later claimed that exporting the electricity to Vietnam was the second step of the process, after the energy needs of local communities in northeast Cambodia had been met.

“The Ministry of Environment has observed the situation closely. Only the left-over electricity from the use of local people will be sold to Vietnam,” he said following the event.

Baird said only a miniscule amount of the energy generated would be used locally.

“Maybe a very small amount of electricity they might use around Stung Treng, but it would be less than 1 percent,” he said, adding that the province could likely all be powered off of only 1MW of energy.
“It’s obvious the power is not for Cambodia because there is too much and there is no way to distribute it,” he said.

“The question is, what benefit is Cambodia getting? What is the Cambodian government getting in terms of taxes or concession fees?” he continued.

Royal Group Chairman Kith Meng declined to comment, referring questions to the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy. Royal Group chief financial officer Mark Hanna could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In a statement released in April, Kith Meng said that the project “will contribute greatly to the continued economic development of Cambodia, ensuring a reliable, moderately-priced supply of electricity”.


  • Would you like fries with that? US burger chain makes Phnom Penh debut

    California-based The Habit Burger Grill restaurant chain is all set to serve up a delicious array of charbroiled burgers and sides at its newest international location in the centre of Phnom Penh. The Habit is “renowned for its award-winning Charburgers grilled over an open flame,

  • Banteay Meanchey flood victims receive aid

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday provided aid to more than 10,000 families affected by flooding in Banteay Meanchey province’s Mongkol Borei district and offered his condolences to the 18 victims who drowned in the province over the past week. He said flooding had occured in

  • Angkor provides ‘valuable’ water storage

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) has stored millions of cubic metres of water at reservoirs in the Angkor area after Cambodia experienced a series of rainstorms over the last few days. The storing of the water, besides serving temple conservation, will also be used to

  • PM urges caution as Polish man tests positive for Covid

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday reported that a 47-year-old Polish man tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in Cambodia on Monday. There are a total of six Covid-19 patients currently in the country, all of whom are being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital

  • Banteay Meanchey floods kill one more as death toll reaches 15

    As floodwaters start to recede in Pursat, Battambang and Pailin provinces and Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey continues to bear the brunt as one more person was killed on Monday, bringing the total number of flood-related deaths to 15 in the province this month. Banteay Meanchey provincial

  • Serving coffee with a side of robots

    The eye-catching glass building surrounded by greenery at the intersection of Streets 371 and 2002 in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district is more than just another coffee shop where you can while away a few hours. UrHobby House cafe is filled with robots and characters from