Cambodia, US Share Concerns Over Lao Dam

Following a meeting with a visiting U.S. diplomat on Wednesday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Secretary of State Ouch Borith said the U.S. shares Cambodia’s concerns about a controversial hydropower dam Laos is planning to build on the Mekong River.

Cambodia and Vietnam both fear that the 256-MW Don Sahong dam in southern Laos will severely reduce vital fish stocks in the Lower Mekong and its tributaries.

Mr. Borith said that Scot Marciel, principal deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. State Department’s bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, shared the two countries’ worry.

“We have concerns that this huge dam that Laos wants to build will affect the Mekong,” Mr. Borith told reporters after the meeting. “Mr. Scot said that [U.S. Secretary of State] John Kerry has also discussed this and has pushed Laos to host a summit in Laos by the end of the year.”

In June, Laos agreed to postpone construction of the dam until it consults with its neighbors.

Mr. Borith said Mr. Marciel also asked him about the status of a draft memorandum of understanding between Cambodia and Australia that would see refugees detained while trying to reach Australia resettled in Cambodia.

The deal has come under widespread rebuke from opposition lawmakers and rights groups in both Cambodia and Australia because it would send the refugees to one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world.

Mr. Borith said he told the U.S. diplomat that proposals were still being reviewed, but declined to say anything else about the pending deal, which both Cambodia and Australia have shrouded in secrecy.

“No discussion at all, he just want[ed] to know what the situation is,” he said.

Mr. Marciel, he added, also welcomed the recent political settlement that saw the opposition CNRP end its yearlong boycott of the National Assembly over 2013’s national elections, which the opposition accuses the CPP of rigging.

Mr. Marciel did not stop to speak with reporters after the meeting, and the U.S. Embassy did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

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