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Environmental, Social Concerns in ‘Triangle’ Talks

Development experts want to see a thorough discussion of the environment and social issues when officials from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam meet this week to discuss the remote “triangle area” among their shared borders.

In Cambodia’s northeastern provinces, expanded plantations and mining and plans for massive hydropower dams have given rise to concerns for villagers.

In two days of meetings that begin Wednesday in Kratie province, lawmakers from three countries are to discuss infrastructure, electricity and development in Cambodia’s Ratanakkiri, Mondolkiri and Stung Treng provinces; Laos’ Attapeu, Saravan and Se Kong provinces; and Vietnam’s Dak Lak, Dak Nong, Gia Lai and Kon Tum provinces.

Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of NGO Forum, said it was important that lawmakers “conduct a thorough study on the environmental and social affects” of development in the region before moving forward.

Development groups want participation from stakeholders, transparency and a cease to negative impacts on “people who depend on the natural resources in that area,” he said.

Better development could increase the gains on investment and improve security in the tri-border area, he said.

Nov Seiha, an economist at the Economic Institute of Cambodia, said the border region between the three countries has the potential to reduce poverty, bolster trade and even see eco-tourism take root. But that all requires the right plan.

“If the development plan is really working, I’m optimistic that it will provide a positive result to our economy and trade,” he said.

Chheang Vun, head of the National Assembly’s committee on foreign affairs, said the three governments were planning for more infrastructure, including roads, communication and electricity.

Development policies for the area are hoped to “solve the poverty of people in the area,” he said.