Activists Say Chinese Embassy to Set Up Meeting With Dam Investors

The Chinese Embassy on Thursday accepted a petition calling for it to intervene in Chinese companies’ investment in three proposed hydropower dams and agreed to bring those companies to meet with villagers whose livelihoods would be affected by the dams, villagers said.

Two community leaders representing about 75,000 people from Stung Treng and Ratanakkiri provinces, where the dams would be built, were allowed inside the embassy, where they met with a representative of Ambassador Bu Jianguo and handed over the petition, they said.

“The man I met inside the Chinese Embassy to Cambodia claimed he was a representative for Ms. Bu Jianguo and he claimed that the Embassy would set up a meeting for us to meet with Chinese companies if the impacts on our livelihoods are going to be really serious,” said Torn Cheang, a representative of the communities that will be affected by the dams.

Studies by environmental groups show that the first of the proposed dams, the Lower Sesan 2 in Stung Treng, for which land clearing has already begun, would displace some 5,000 families and adversely affect the livelihoods of 100,000 more, who depend on the region’s fisheries.

The petition asks Ms. Bu to “kindly intervene with Hydrolancang [International Energy] company to reconsider its investment,” in the Lower Sean 2. It also asks that she ensure Chinese companies invested in the two Ratanakkiri dams “fully investigate the impacts and reconsider their investment.”

Those dams—the Lower Sesan 3, backed by Sinohydro Resources, and the Lower Srepok 3, backed by Huadin Hong Kong Co. Ltd.—will be built across Veun Sai, Taveng and Lumphat districts, and would also affect locals’ livelihoods.

Contacted Thursday, Lumphat district governor Kong Srun confirmed that a feasibility study been carried out for the Lower Srepok 3, and said that villagers were wrong to approach the Chinese Embassy.

“They should not have gone to bother the Chinese ambassador,” he said. “Because if the dam is approved for construction, the government will critically think about the environmental and social impacts,” he said.

In front of the Chinese Embassy, Phay Savuth, a representative of villagers that live along the Srepok River, said the dam was unnecessary.

“We don’t need hydropower dam since it will critically harm our livelihoods and traditional farmland,” she said.

“China is a powerful country, so if their ambassador intervenes in the Chinese companies’ investment, we will live free of harm.”

Officials at the Chinese Embassy could not be reached for comment.

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