Cambodia Deports Outspoken Activist

Last week, Cambodia deported a Spanish activist who has led opposition against plans for a “mega dam” in the southwest region of the country. The activist, Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, is the director of NGO Mother Nature Cambodia, a group supported by local monks and villagers. Among these supporters are people that have been evicted from ancestral lands which lie within the areas due to be affected by the dam.

Gonzalez-Davidson had overstayed his visa by three days at the time of his deportation, but the real reason for giving him the boot seems to be his ongoing campaign against the Chhay Areng hydropower dam project in the Koh Kong Province.

The negative environmental impact of the dam will be huge, as it will be located within (and eventually flood much of) the protected Cardomom Forest region. This is an area of high biodiversity, home to dozens of endangered species as well as the indigenous people of the Areng Valley.

Working in conjunction with villagers, Khmer-speaking Gonzalez-Davidson set up roadblocks last year, temporarily preventing officials from accessing areas of the proposed dam site. Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak has said, “We received complaints from Koh Kong authorities, and demanded that Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson must be deported.”

The impetus for creating roadblocks was the concern that those conducting studies on the environmental impact of the dam would not do so fairly. Chinese experts and officials, backed by ruling Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker (and “pro dam”) Lao Meng Khin, were among those who would be carrying out these studies. Chinese company Sinohydro Resources Ltd., a subsidiary of Sinohydro Corporation, will be funding and constructing the 108MW dam.

This project is just one of many that are receiving criticism on a global scale, due to the potentially massive environmental impact and the displacement of thousands. Concerning another proposed project, the Stung Treng dam, there is also the added component of how it will affect the ecology and livelihood of those living downstream, especially in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam.

H/T: Radio Free Asia

  • Whennin

    Maybe the Cambodian gov. just got sick of a foreigner meddling in their affairs and bummin about on an expired visa

    • Peter Zhang

      Sure, maybe in some cases “foreigner meddling” might be an undesirable factor..misguided good intentions or ulterior motives… but given the fact that this activist called Cambodia home for over a decade, speaks Khmer and has organized support for protecting what is considered the last remaining large forest area of an entire country, he should be congratulated. An alternative to a huge dam in this region is needed.