Military and government officials in Koh Kong province Sunday confirmed reports that employees of a private company were in the area to assess the environmental impacts of a proposed hydropower dam opposed by locals, though the company denied it.
China’s Sinohydro Resources has hired local consultancy Sawac to study the environmental impacts of its proposed Stung Chhay Areng dam, which would flood thousands of hectares of the Areng Valley, home to some endangered species and hundreds of ethnic minority Chong families who would have to move.
On Sunday, Thma Baing deputy district governor Keo Nybora confirmed reports from local villagers that the firm was in the area.
“Sawac came to study the social and biodiversity impacts in the district on the 28th or 29th of last month,” he said, adding that the company’s employees were still in the area. “Six people have come from the company to the area.”
Brigadier General Yon Min, provincial commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), confirmed that the group had come to conduct the study and that some of his officers were escorting them.
“Ten of our provincial soldiers accompanied them to conduct the study in Thma Baing district, to study about the dam,” he said. “When the company finishes the study, we will bring them back out.”
District RCAF commander Neng Vann said six of his men were part of the security detail.
The company, however, says it has yet to start the study.
“We are still waiting for the provincial governor” to tell them when they can go in, said Um Sereivuth, Sawac’s team leader on the project. “He will inform us.”
Mr. Sereivuth said he had spent the first two weeks of the month in the district on an unrelated project but never entered the valley.
The government approved Sinohydro’s proposal to have Sawac study the potential impacts of the dam back in March, but activists opposed to the project blocked the only road leading to the valley for months until local authorities disbanded the roadblock in September.