Monday April 22, 2019
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Cambodia Approves Hydropower Dam, Solar Energy Plant to Meet Electricity Demand

“Cambodia will have local sources of energy and reusable fuel consumption—clean and at affordable prices”

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electricity, hydropower dam, solar energy
Cambodian women eat dinner in front of a portable lamp during an electricity outage in Phnom Penh, in a file photo. RFA

Cambodia’s government on Friday approved a hydropower dam and solar energy plant projects in a bid to ease the strain on the country’s electricity grid, which has been unable to meet supply demand, leading to nationwide outages over the past several weeks.

In a statement, the Council of Ministers said SPHP (Cambodia) Co. Ltd. had been approved to invest in an 80-megawatt hydropower dam in Pursat province, while Cambodian firm SchneiTec Co. Ltd. was given permission to build three 60-megawatt solar energy plans in Pursat, Kampong Chhnang and Kampong Speu provinces.

The U.S. $231 million hydropower dam will be built as part of a 39-year concession, while the solar energy plants will each cost U.S. $58 million and be built as part of 20-year concessions, the statement said.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan told a press briefing that the power projects would benefit Cambodia “technically, economically and socially.”

“Cambodia will have local sources of energy and reusable fuel consumption—clean and at affordable prices,” he said.

electricity demand, solar energy demand, hydropower dam
The U.S. $231 million hydropower dam will be built as part of a 39-year concession. Wikimedia

“The projects will also employ thousands of people during the construction phase and as a result of ecotourism,” he added, without elaborating. Phay Siphan said that the government expects the plants to generate U.S. $292 million annually.

While the projects will help to ease Cambodia’s power shortages in the future, they will do little to alleviate widespread blackouts over the past several weeks that the government has attributed to high temperatures affecting the ability of dams to generate power and high levels of public consumption.

Officials said recently that the grid is around 400 megawatts short of what is needed to supply the country during the dry season.

The power cuts are expected to last through May and have caused some to question whether they are being orchestrated by the government to drum up public support for proceeding with the controversial Stung Cheay Areng hydropower dam in Koh Kong province, despite environmental concerns that shelved the project in 2015.

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday told officials to “cut off electricity” to the homes of those who claim the government is behind the outages, adding, “Let them light torches.”

Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, founder of local environmental watchdog Mother Nature, told RFA’s Khmer Service he is concerned that construction of the dam announced Friday will destroy the forest in Pursat “like they have in Koh Kong and Stung Treng” provinces, because the government will use the project as an excuse to log the area.

solar energy plant, hydropower dam, electricity demand
The solar energy plants will each cost U.S. $58 million and be built as part of 20-year concessions. Wikimedia

Meanwhile, Hun Sen announced Friday that the government has canceled plans to lease a Turkish floating power plant that would have produced an additional 200 megawatts of electricity for Cambodia, saying the vessel would not arrive in time to alleviate the nation’s power shortages.

The Khmer Times quoted Ty Norin, secretary of state at the Ministry of Mines and Energy, as saying that Thailand and Laos will “sell us more power” instead.

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Ty Norin said Cambodia will increase imports of electricity from Thailand to 200 megawatts from 120 megawatts, while Laos will deliver 50 megawatts instead of 40 megawatts. “So, in total, we get 90 megawatts more,” he said.

Cambodia currently imports 170 megawatts from Vietnam. Cambodia’s Mines and Energy Ministry has said that Cambodia produced 2,650 megawatts of energy in 2018—50 percent of which came from hydroelectric dams. (RFA)

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Next Story

“We Got in Line And Handed Them The Money,”Cambodian Migrants Heading Home for the Holidays

If we didn’t have any money they would not have allowed us to return [to Cambodia,]

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On April 9, Cambodian migrants trying to return home for Khmer New Year wait at a checkpoint at the Thai-Cambodian border. RFA

Thousands of Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand have flocked to the border along Cambodia’s Banteay Meanchey and Battambang provinces to return home for the Khmer New Year holiday. But many of the migrants say that before being allowed to return to Cambodia, they had to bribe both Thai and Cambodian border police.

The three-day holiday, running from Apr. 14-16, is the most important holiday in the country, and it is customary for Cambodians to return to their hometowns.

“We workers are not educated and we were afraid that we wouldn’t be able to return. We didn’t want any problems, so we just paid the officials,” said migrant worker Heng Chanhieng, in an interview with RFA’s Khmer Service Tuesday.

He said that when he was trying to cross through the border checkpoint in Battambag’s Kamrieng district he was asked to pay the equivalent of $6 to the Thai police and $3 to the Cambodian police, adding that nobody even dared to protest against the officials demanding the unofficial payments.

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We know that thousands of migrants work in Thailand. The government should have a policy to help them get through the border checkpoints faster without having to pay extra money, Pixabay

Another migrant, Lon Samnang, said he believes the Thai and Cambodian officers are in league with each other, colluding to extort the workers during the holiday season. He said that the officials demanded they put away their cellphones while collecting the money because they were afraid their pictures would be taken.

“If we didn’t have any money they would not have allowed us to return [to Cambodia,]” he said.

The migrant said he had to wait five hours before the police would even allow them to leave the border checkpoints.

Neth Phirum, meanwhile said police collected $10 from him during his return trip.

“We got in line and handed them the money,” he said, adding, “Nobody knows where that money went [or what it is for].”

Sok Kun, a Kamrieng immigration police officer denied that either the Thai or Cambodian police were taking bribes. He said the money was given to them voluntarily after the officials helped the migrants cross the border in an organized, timely manner.

“The money was their way of saying thanks,” he said.

The same situation was experienced by workers at the Poipet checkpoint in Banteay Meanchey’s Ou Chrov district.

Keo Soveacha said Wednesday that after he offered to pay a bribe, the Cambodian and Thai police split the proceeds.

“I wanted to speed up the process, so I said ‘I have $13,’” he said.

Dy Thehoya, a program officer for the Phnom Penh-based Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL), said he wants the government to stop the yearly extortion of the thousands of migrants returning home.

“We know that thousands of migrants work in Thailand. The government should have a policy to help them get through the border checkpoints faster without having to pay extra money,” he said.

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He said that when he was trying to cross through the border checkpoint in Battambag’s Kamrieng district he was asked to pay the equivalent of $6 to the Thai police and $3 to the Cambodian police, adding that nobody even dared to protest against the officials demanding the unofficial payments. Pixabay

Heang Kimsoeun, a social worker, filed a complaint Thursday to Cambodia’s Anti-Corruption Unit, asking them to investigate corruption along the border. The complaint said workers are made to pay $10-$11 to get through border checkpoints. He said that those responsible for the corruption should be brought to justice.

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“What are [the police] doing with that money? This is illegal,” he said.

RFA attempted to contact Thai officials for comment. The deputy immigration chief declined to answer any questions, whereas the spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs received questions but did not reply. (RFA)