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Filmmaker Warns of Impacts of Hydrodam in Western Cambodia

Director, Kalyanee Mam's film "A River Changes Course" about her native country, Cambodia, wins the 2013 Sundance Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema Documentary at the Awards Ceremony on Saturday, January 26th in Park City, Utah.

Award-winning filmmaker Kalyanee Mam, whose documentary “A River Changes Course,” looks into the environmental and human impacts of Cambodia’s development policies, has written a story in Mother Jones magazine detailing a controversial dam site in western Cambodia.

The Stung Cheay Areng dam would flood at least 26,000 acres and displace more than 1,500 people from their ancestral homes, she warns.

The dam is believed to have been brokered by a powerful political couple, Cambodian People's Party senator Lao Meng Khin and his wife, Choeung Sopheap, who, Mam writes, are also behind Shukaku Inc, the development company behind a controversial forced eviction in Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak lake district.

“They also own Pheapimex Group, a controversial development firm responsible for the land seizure of hundreds of thousands of acres of forest and farmland in Cambodia,” she writes.

Mam’s film delves into these issues and more.

In an interview with VOA Khmer, she said this dam and others demonstrate a lack of interest on the part of the government for the wellbeing of Cambodians. Instead, the dam serves “the interest of Chinese companies, Cambodian business tycoon-connected to the government, and illegal logging companies,” she said.

However, grassroots movements can help, she said. “The dam construction can be prevented by people’s movements, which need support from both local and international nongovernmental organizations,” she said.

Such projects strike at the Cambodian way of life, she added.

“In the past or even now, our life purely depends on land and water,” she said. “Without land, water and nature, we would die. I think local people in Cambodia understand this very well.”