China-funded Lower Sesan II Dam key for ‘energy security’: Cambodia

Official says hydroelectric dam ‘positively benefitting Cambodia’s economy, people,’ rejects ‘misleading’ HRW report.

ANKARA (AA) – Cambodia has dismissed a “misleading and fabricated” report by an international rights group on a hydroelectric dam funded by China, emphasizing that the project has proven critical for the country’s “energy security.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a report released earlier this month, said the Lower Sesan II Dam in Cambodia – part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative – was “a rights disaster” that endangered the lives and livelihoods of indigenous and ethnic minority communities.

“The report is baseless and damaging to human rights and economy in Cambodia,” the country’s Environment Ministry said in a statement.

“The report… was fabricated with political intention, misleading the public about the development in Cambodia, rather than revealing the real condition of human rights in the country.”

Neth Pheaktra, secretary of state for the ministry, said the government has assessed “all construction projects carefully to minimize their impacts.”

“The description in the HRW report related to the Lower Sesan Dam II emerged as a dissemination of misinformation to hinder the development of Cambodia and serves a hidden political agenda,” he said.

He said the dam is “positively benefitting 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.”

The 400MW project ensures the “energy security” of Cambodia, he added, urging HRW to “accept the reality by appreciating the endeavor of the Royal Government in developing Cambodia with a clear and well-studied strategy.”

In a separate statement, the Cambodian Embassy in Turkey’s capital Ankara said the report was “misleading and motivated by geopolitical considerations.”

“The report was based on some NGOs’ reports, some opposition members’ interviews, a fraction of people living in the area and not representing the majority,” read the statement.

It cited Cambodia’s “remarkable progress” in efforts to provide electricity to all citizens, saying that 10 years ago the country had “among the lowest electrification rates in the world” as just “26% of the whole population had access to electricity.”

Today, about 98% of the villages in Cambodia have access to electricity, the statement said.

“The HRW should stop its smearing campaign against Cambodia. The people of Cambodia experienced enough sufferings and destruction caused by the outside interference in the past. Therefore, their economic and development rights should be respected,” read the statement.

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