Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM jibes: I'll deploy rockets in Areng



PM jibes: I'll deploy rockets in Areng

areng_engineers
Chinese engineers prepare to go out in to the field in the Areng Valley. They are researching the feasibility of the Cheay Areng hydroelectric dam that would flood the entire valley. LUKE DUGGLEBY/INTERNATIONAL RIVERS

PM jibes: I'll deploy rockets in Areng

Prime Minister Hun Sen has jibed that he could deploy military hardware should anyone try and create an “autonomous zone” in the Areng Valley, where activists are bitterly fighting a proposed dam.

In a speech on Tuesday, the premier also took aim at Areng Valley activist Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, who was deported yesterday, condemning him for organising road blocks to stop companies from entering the area.

“If you want to make an autonomous zone [in Areng], please come, and we will put BM21 [multiple rocket launcher vehicles] in that area, but I don’t accuse them seriously like that,” Hun Sen said, before attacking Areng activists for obstructing company officials.

However, the premier also publicly confirmed for the first time that no decision on whether to dam the valley would be made until after the next election and even went as far as to say that such a project would be a “disaster” environmentally, squandering billions of potential tourism revenue.

“[In] my own opinion, I want to keep it for the younger generation, and it’s the same as the Chi Phat area, and [we] estimate it could earn $20 billion but instead of getting about $20 billion, we will lose around 20,000 hectares of forested of land.

“If we lost 20,000 hectares of forest, it would be a disaster and that area is the elephant crossing spot. If we do decide to develop, our sea over there will not be blue anymore, it turns to red sea, because when they're digging the land, it will float into the sea.”

San Mala, a co-founder of the grassroots conservation NGO Mother Nature, who was arrested along with Gonzalez-Davidson yesterday but later released, said Hun Sen's remarks were a direct threat to his organisation.

“When he said he will do anything if anyone tries to create autonomous zone, this is a heavy comment from him directly to our team, who have always tried to stop the Chinese company or any expert that wants to study [there],” Mala said.

If the government was serious about halting the Areng Valley dam, he added, they would stop surveying the area and start promoting it through the Ministry of Tourism.

Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party chief whip Son Chhay, himself a longtime opponent of plans to dam the Areng Valley, questioned the sincerity of the prime minister's seemingly newfound love of nature.

“Because the population of this country starts to become involved in helping Alex [Gonzalez-Davidson] to protect this river, he has no choice but to say he loves the river,” Chhay said, adding that the premier had done nothing to halt mass illegal logging in the same area.

Gonzalez-Davidson was deported yesterday after refusing to leave the country despite overstaying his visa, which the government had refused to renew.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DAVID BOYLE

Correction: A quote from Prime Minister Hun Sen in this article regarding the deployment of BM21 multiple rocket launcher vehicles has been extended to reflect that the premier's tone was not entirely serious. The headline for the article has also been adjusted to reflect this.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Takeo hand-woven silk items provide local high-quality alternative to imports

    After graduating from university and beginning her career as a civil servant at the the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Khieu Sina found time to establish a business that aligns with her true passion – quality hand-woven Khmer goods. Her product line, known as Banteay Srei,

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,

  • 11th Chaktomuk Short Film Festival draws to close

    Cambodia's 11th Chaktomuk Short Film Festival wrapped up successfully on November 28 after a four-day run, with the film “Voice of the Night” awarded top prize for 2022. Sum Sithen, the organiser of the short film festival, told The Post that the number of attendees to the