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Activists Want Laos Dam on Agenda for ASEAN-Obama Meeting


FILE - Cambodian non-governmental organization (NGOs) activists shout slogans during a protest against a proposed Don Sahong dam, in a tourist boat along the Tonle Sap river, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014.

FILE - Cambodian non-governmental organization (NGOs) activists shout slogans during a protest against a proposed Don Sahong dam, in a tourist boat along the Tonle Sap river, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014.

Some 6 million people could be affected by the dam, including people living not just on the Mekong, but on the Tonle Sap River, as well.

As Prime Minister Hun Sen prepares to join other ASEAN leaders to meet with US President Barack Obama in California next week, representatives of communities along the Mekong River say they hope a controversial dam in Laos will be discussed.

Environmentalists and community leaders fear the Don Sahong Dam, which is being built despite protests from Cambodia and Vietnam, will damage the fisheries of the Mekong, potentially harming a major food source for millions of people.

Long Sochet chief of the Cambodian Fishermen’s Alliance in Pursat province, told reporters Thursday that construction of the dam should stop. “If we run out of fish, what can we depend on?”

Environmental groups have released a number of reports detailing the impact of the Don Sahong Dam, including its impact on fisheries and the rare Mekong River dolphin. Some 6 million people could be affected by the dam, including people living not just on the Mekong, but on the Tonle Sap River, as well.

Tek Vannara, executive director of the NGO Forum, told reporters Thursday that ASEAN leaders should discuss the dam in their meeting in Sunnylands, Southern California, next week.

“This issue is a big issue for ASEAN,” he said. It affects “five mainland ASEAN countries and China.” China has influence in all the countries, he added. “So it means that there would be discussion on this issue in terms of both geopolitics and the development of the hydropower dam.”

Youk Senglong, deputy director of the Fisheries Action Coalition Team, meanwhile called on Cambodian consumers to boycott Angkor beer, whose parent company, Cambrew, Ltd., has shares in the Don Sahong Dam investment.

The dam is being built just 2 kilometers from the Cambodian border, on the Laos portion of the Mekong. The hydropower dam, whose chief investor is Mega First, a Malaysian company, is expected to be completed by mid-2019.

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