Roads Blocked to Stop Engineers, Proposed Dam

Dozens of ethnic Chong villagers in Koh Kong province’s Areng valley continued blocking a road Sunday for the third day to protest the impending construction of a hydropower dam that will lead to large scale evictions, authorities and rights workers said.

The villagers have since Friday been blocking a road that leads to land that a Chinese company rented to store heavy machinery and construction material for the Stung Chhay Areng dam. Villagers said they are attempting to prevent the company, Sinohydro, from building a machinery storage facility on land in Thma Baing district recently rented for that purpose.

“On Friday more than 100 people blocked the road, and as of Sunday more than 60 villagers were still taking turns blocking the road, sleeping in shifts in the nearby forest,” said Neang Boratino, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc.

Mr. Boratino said the villagers had vowed to continue their roadblock protest until plans to build the dam are scrapped.

Representatives of the Chong villagers could not be reached Sunday, as they were in a remote part of the forest, but said on Friday that they were also prohibiting two Chinese engineers from traveling to the area of the proposed dam to begin work.

Thma Baing district police chief Sin Vary said Sunday that police had decided to stop the Chinese nationals from traveling in the area for their own safety, as well as to postpone the movement of construction materials onto the rented land.

“We have not allowed the Chinese engineers into those areas to study the plans to create the dam,” he said, adding that the engineers would not travel until the company and authorities negotiate with the protesting villagers.

He said that police had appealed to the villagers to give up the roadblock, to no avail.

“On Saturday I, along with the provincial deputy governor and the district governor, tried to educate them to stop the protest and roadblock, but they did not listen to authorities,” he said.

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