Chinese Firm and Hun Sen Discuss 3B Investment, Coal Power

The president of the Hung Jun Investment Corporation told Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday that his company wanted to invest $3 billion in Cambodia’s energy, manufacturing and real estate sectors, the premier’s assistant said yesterday.

According to Mr Hun Sen’s assistant Eang Sophalleth, HJI President Lin Xiang Wang told the premier that his company wanted to build a factory capable of producing aluminum for local use and export, a 700-megawatt coal power plant it hopes to construct in Preah Sihanouk province, and a real estate development. Mr Sophalleth said that Mr Hun Sen welcomed the investment as a development opportunity.

Mr Lin “met with the prime minister at the monument and talked about the coal factory,” said Mr Sopalleth, referring to the premier’s Phnom Penh home opposite Independence Monument.

The potential investment, while unusually large, is not the first to place an emphasis on the creation of a coal power plant. Leader Universal Holdings, a Malaysian firm, announced its intention to build a 100-megawatt coal plant in Preah Sihanouk province in November of last year, prompting concerns from NGOs about environmental damage. According to LUH’s website, construction is underway.

Economists have long cited high electricity costs in Cambodia as a barrier to international investment. Preah Sihanouk City has not been exempted from power struggles: In May, the state-owned utility Electricite du Cambodge blamed frequent blackouts in the seaside city on a spike in demand for electricity caused by warm weather.

Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia, said yesterday that the need for electricity should be balanced with the need to act responsibly towards the environment.

“In Cambodia, we have not really been negatively impacted by coal power plants,” said Mr Sam Ath. “This is not true in other countries and so we must consider the potential negative impact on the land and on the water supply.”

Mr Sam Ath added that global warming should be a consideration in building fossil fuel-burning plants and that he hoped for a transparent development process

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