Villagers Hold Protest Over Ban On Bamboo Cutting Near Dam

About 100 villagers in Kampot province held a protest Wednes­day at the provincial office demanding that they be allowed to continue cutting bamboo from land where a Chinese-funded hydro­power dam is being built, villagers and local officials said yesterday.

Ly Seng, 40, one of the protesters living in Kampot City’s An­doung Khmer commune, said that for the past two weeks, security officers working at the site had prevented them from accessing land on either side of the dam’s reservoir. Officials yesterday said that villagers had been stopped to prevent them from damaging the land around the dam.

“About 300 families are concerned that their jobs are at risk,” said Mr Seng, explaining that most used the bamboo to make furniture that is sold at local marketplaces.

The Kamchay dam, which is being built by Chinese company Si­no Hydro, is set to be completed next year and provide Cambo­dia with an extra 193 megawatts of energy. Prime Minister Hun Sen has said the dam will bring down electricity prices from about $0.17 per kilowatt-hour to between $0.08 and $0.10 per kilowatt-hour.

Provincial governor Khoy Khun Hour denied that blocking access to the site would affect villagers’ livelihoods as there were many other areas with bamboo trees where access is not prohibited.

“We do not allow them to cut bamboo in the area surrounding the hydropower dam because we fear they will destroy the reservoir,” he said. “They can find bamboo in areas that have not been banned, especially in areas near the foot of the [Kamchay] mountain.”

But Try Chhoun, provincial coordinator for rights group Ad­hoc, expressed concerns yesterday that the livelihoods of families in Andoung Khmer commune as well as Mak Brang, Kompong Kreng and Stung Keo communes in Toek Chhou district would be negatively affected by the decision to block access to villagers.

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