Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hundreds protest Laos dam

Hundreds protest Laos dam

Demonstrators in Stung Treng’s Thala Barivat district on the weekend sail a boat sporting banners protesting against the Don Sahong dam project in Laos
Demonstrators in Stung Treng’s Thala Barivat district on the weekend sail a boat sporting banners protesting against the Don Sahong dam project in Laos. Vireak Mai

Hundreds protest Laos dam

Yin Vuth, one of hundreds of Cambodians who protested against the Don Sahong dam over the weekend, said that if construction on the project in Laos goes ahead, the fish will disappear, and once the fish disappear, the dolphins will be next.

“All we will have left will be water contaminated by the dam,” said Vuth, 53, who runs a dolphin-spotting tourism business about 2 kilometres from the construction site in Laos’s Champasak province, just over the border from Cambodia.

About 400 protesters traversed the Mekong River on 50 or so longboats through Kratie province’s Sambor district and Stung Treng’s Thala Barivat district near the two countries’ border in the northeast.

The demonstrators wore white shirts and unfurled banners as they negotiated the waterway, calling for the preservation of the river system and the cancellation of the multimillion-dollar dam.

They called on the governments of Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam to axe the development at a meeting of the Mekong River Commission later this week, which will be attended by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“This dam was established against international law and the Mekong Agreement of 1995, which was signed by Laos, and it was not discussed with the people in other countries either,” Vong Kosal, legal aid officer at the NGO Forum, said.

“The Mekong basin has been chopped up into stairs for building the hydro-electric dams, and it brings more disadvantages,” Kosal said.

Sean Kin, Kratie provincial director of fisheries, said that the river was his constituents’ spiritual home, a source of essential nutrition and tourism income.

“Fresh water dolphins are our living heritage, which brings in more tourists,” he said. “The dam will slow down the water currents, and the environment will be changed for both animals and people.”

The 260-megawatt Don Sahong dam is one of 12 large-scale hydropower projects planned for the lower Mekong river basin. It has drawn strong criticism from rights groups and local communities.

In a recent report on the dam, the World Wildlife Fund said that judging by the low standards of an environmental impact assessment for the project, the negative impact on millions of people could be severe.

“If it depends on this weak evaluation, Mekong river fishery resources and the 60 million people who are living in the sub-Mekong river basin will face high risks,” the report said.

The WWF estimates there are only about 85 Mekong River dolphins left in the wild.

“If Laos really constructs the dam, we will lose our rare resources, especially the dolphins first,” said Sam Sovann, an executive officer of local NGO Northeastern Rural Development. “Dolphins bring in money, but do not need money to be fed, like pigs or chickens.”

But if they die, the resources will not be able to be replaced by spending money, he added.

According to Sovann, the communities gathered more than 3,000 signatures to submit to Hun Sen ahead of the MRC summit on Saturday.

MOST VIEWED

  • Temi tourism project approved by the CDC

    The $500.4 million Tourism, Ecological, Marine and International (Temi) tourism project has been approved by the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), according to a notice on its Facebook page on Monday. The project is part of Chinese-owned Union City Development Group Co Ltd’s (

  • Rainsy will return at ‘favourable time’

    Opposition figure Sam Rainsy on Saturday suggested he would not return to Cambodia as he had previously promised, saying that like liberators King Father Norodom Sihanouk and Charles de Gaulle, he would only do so at a “favourable time”. “I will go back to Cambodia

  • NagaWorld casino sees net profit of more than $390M last year

    Phnom Penh’s NagaWorld casino posted a 53 per cent net profit increase last year at $390.6 million, a sum which is almost equal to the combined net profit of all Cambodian commercial banks in 2017. NagaWorld’s parent company, NagaCorp Ltd, is listed on the Hong Kong

  • US Embassy urged to stop ‘disrespecting sovereignty’

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation called on the US Embassy in Phnom Penh on Saturday to respect the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations after it called former opposition leader Kem Sokha “an innocent man” – a move deemed to be “disrespecting Cambodia’s