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Filmmaker Turns Camera Toward Hydrodam Valley

A poster for the 2014 short documentary "Fight for Areng Valley" or "A Threat to Cambodia’s Sacred Forests" by Cambodian-American filmmaker Kalyanee Mam. (Courtesy of Kalyanee Mam)

Kalyanee Mam, a Cambodian-American filmmaker, has created a new short film that explores the potential destruction of a remote valley in western Cambodia for the construction of a Chinese hydropower dam.

In an interview with VOA Khmer, she says the Areng Valley represents what is happening across much of Cambodia, deforestation and other destruction to make way for development.

“We all must help preserve our natural resources, because that is what we have,” she said. In past visits, she said, she saw a lot of remaining forests, particularly in the northeast, “but now our forests are gone.”

Now, in the Areng Valley, in the western province of Koh Kong, similar development is going forward. Once built, the hydropower dam will affect 26,000 hectares of land and 1,500 people of the Chong ethnic minority.

“They want nothing,” Kalyanee Mam said. “They don’t want money. They don’t want to be evicted. They only want to live in their place.” They will not be the beneficiaries of the dam, she said. One woman in her film said “her life is nothing without nature…and the two cannot be split apart.”

The Chong people rely on the land and the forest and the Areng River, Kalyanee Mam said. “The eviction will change their lives completely.”

She produced the film in March, and it was recently featured on the website of the New York Times, as one of their Op-Docs. The film shows life for the Chong, as well as protests against the construction of the dam.

One Chong woman, Reem Sav See, describes her resistance to the dam. “If we are relocated,” she says, “we will suffer beyond compare.”