An attempt by about 100 Cambodian protesters to force the Angkor Beer company to divest its stake in the Don Sahong hydropower plant in Laos fell flat on Friday when company representatives said the brewer has no involvement in the project.
On Friday a coalition of environmentalists, young people, and local villagers attempted to submit a petition to the company at its brewery in Sihanoukville, asking the company to withdraw from the project because it could harm fisheries on the Mekong River. The most widely consumed beer in Cambodia, Angkor is a product of the joint Cambodian-Danish concern Cambrew.
According to the petition the dam will affect the flow of the Mekong River, destroy fisheries in the lower Mekong, and affect millions of people in neighboring countries. Meanwhile, civil societies are requesting government intervention in the construction of the dam.
Environmental activist Chum Huot told RFA’s Khmer Service that construction of the dam will affect people living in Steung Treng and Kratie provinces and have an impact on the Mekong River and Tonle Sap Lake.
The protesters’ ire centered on Malaysian investor Goh Nan Kioh, who is both a director of Cambrew and head of Mega First, the Malaysian investment company in charge of the dam.
“Cambodia will be victimized by the construction of the Don Sahong hydropower dam because Mr. Goh Nan Kioh is not Cambodian,” Chun Huot said.
But Angkor Beer executive Chheng Leap told the protesters the company has nothing to do with the dam.
“Angkor Beer is not involved in the Don Sahong project,” Chheng Leap told the protesters. “What you are all doing is affecting the public order and the reputation of the company.”
The hydroelectric dam proposed for the Mekong River in the Siphandone area of Champasak Province in southern Laos is less than two kilometers upstream from the Laos–Cambodia border.
Laos views the 260-megawatt Don Sahong dam as a major economic project that can make the country a source of electric power for much of the region.
While debate over who controls the project and what its environmental effects may be is still going on, construction of the dam continues, said Phoy Vanna, a representative of the Preah Rumkel Community-Based Ecotourism Site.
Construction is now blocking two channels of the Mekong, he said.
“Now they are blowing up the rocks,” he said. “It’s like they are mixing chemical ingredients in the river up there, then they will flow downstream into the deep basin."
"I don’t know how many tons of rocks it will take to finish the project,” he said.
Reported by RFA's Lao Service. Translated by Pagnawath Kuhn. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.