Members of an ethnic minority in Koh Kong province’s Areng Valley stood watch Thursday to block a road leading to the site of a proposed dam after they heard that Chinese workers would inspect the site, community representatives said.
Villagers believe that the Chinese company Sinohydro (Cambodia) United Ltd. will start to build the 108MW Stung Chhay Areng dam in the coming months. The dam is expected to flood large parts of Areng Valley and risks destroying the cultural identity of the Chong minority.
Starting in March, Chong community members have repeatedly tried to block equipment from being taken to the site, and have set up barricades to stop Chinese engineers from inspecting the area, which can only be accessed through a small dirt road.
On Thursday, 26-year-old Thort Than said that about 20 members of the Chong community were on standby in the forest to block Chinese workers from entering the site.
“We have received information that the Chinese will come here to implement their project so we are ready and prepared to block them,” Mr. Than said.
By Thursday evening, the community members were still on standby, as no Chinese workers had shown up.
“We don’t have any information that they were coming back since the last time villagers protested,” Thma Baing district governor Tou Savuth said last month. “It’s a rumor—I don’t see any Chinese here.”
No date has been set for the start of construction. Last month, Sinohydro built a storage facility, alarming the Chong community and kicking off the roadblocks.
In Kongchet, provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, said that the Chong were determined to prevent Chinese workers from accessing the site.
“The villagers are concerned about the negative impact of the dam, and some villagers have gathered and they will wait for the [Chinese] to come,” Mr. Kongchet said.
The Stung Chhay Areng will flood about 2,000 hectares of land, which will include forests in the Cardamom Protected Forest. The Chong considers this forest sacred.
The dam would also threaten the survival of rare plants and animals native to the area, such as the Siamese Crocodile.