PM Rebuffs Calls for Areng to Serve as Eco-Tour Site

Prime Minister Hun Sen has dismissed calls from opposition lawmakers to ensure that Koh Kong province’s Areng Valley is turned into an eco-tour destination, saying in a letter that he had already twice addressed the future of the valley.

Six CNRP lawmakers signed a letter sent to Mr. Hun Sen on May 19 requesting that he stop the proposed Stung Cheay Areng hydropower dam project—which would force more than 1,300 ethnic Chong villagers from their homes and flood a 9,500-hectare area that is home to threatened animal species—from going ahead.

In an earlier January 15 letter sent in response to a request from opposition lawmaker Te Chanmony to consider canceling the project, Mr. Hun Sen said the government “considered the Areng area to be a precious treasure.”

“Whether we had or did not have a proposal for the Areng dam, changing the Areng area into an ecotourism area is a prior agenda that the government is considering,” the prime minister wrote.

But on Wednesday, Um Sam An, one of the opposition lawmakers who signed the latest request, said he wanted a solid commitment from the prime minister.

“This response is not enough, because we have not yet seen a written sub-decree regarding whether or not the government will or will not develop ecotourism,” he said.

“The government has mentioned that they are studying this, but until now, we have not yet seen any such activity in the Areng area.”

A response signed by the prime minister on June 2 and obtained Wednesday indicates that Mr. Hun Sen has grown tired of the opposition’s demands.

“The request of the six lawmakers is the same, it is the same case about which the Royal Government has twice provided answers at the National Assembly,” his letter says, referring to the letter sent to Ms. Chanmony and another sent to CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay in June 2012.

“The verification of the Royal Government twice in the past is already enough in essence and in meaning to respond to this [latest] request.”

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