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Cambodia denies rights abuses due to dam

Human Rights Watch maintains the hydropower project has impacted the livelihoods of tens of thousands

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: August 12, 2021 07:13 AM GMT

Updated: August 12, 2021 07:16 AM GMT

Cambodia denies rights abuses due to dam

The Lower Sesan 2 Dam was completed by operator China Huaneng in 2018. (Photo: AFP)

Cambodia’s Environment Ministry has hit back at a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on the social, economic and human rights impact of the Lower Sesan 2 Dam, calling it baseless and damaging for the country.

Neth Pheaktra, secretary of state at the ministry, said the report “emerged as a dissemination of misinformation to hinder the development of Cambodia and serves a hidden political agenda."

It misled the public about development in Cambodia rather than producing anything revealing about human rights, he added.

“The 400MW Lower Sesan 2 Dam is positively benefiting Cambodia’s economy and people through electricity supply expansion, and has been designed in a way that will produce clean energy in the long run,” he said in a statement released by Agence Kampuchea Presse.

He further urged HRW “to accept the reality by appreciating the endeavor of the government in developing Cambodia with a clear and well-studied strategy.”

HRW had called on the Chinese and Cambodian governments to rethink their compensation packages for villagers displaced by the dam in the country’s northeast as well as for all their future projects to be built as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The HRW report said its conclusions were reached after documenting economic, social and cultural rights violations

John Sifton, HRW’s Asia advocacy director, said systemic reforms were needed to avoid abuses in future projects after a 138-page report he authored found authorities had largely ignored community concerns over the construction of the $782 million project impacting the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people.

“The Lower Sesan 2 Dam washed away the livelihoods of indigenous and ethnic minority communities who previously lived communally and mostly self-sufficiently from fishing, forest gathering and agriculture,” Sifton said.

The HRW report said its conclusions were reached after documenting economic, social and cultural rights violations resulting from the displacement of nearly 5,000 people whose families had lived in the area for generations.

The dam — a hydropower project that became operational in 2017 on the Sesan River in Cambodia, 15 miles upstream from where it meets the Mekong — was completed by operator China Huaneng in 2018 with state-owned Chinese banks providing most of the financing.

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