The remote Areng Valley is located in the 400,000-hectare Central Cardamoms Protected Forest, one the country’s last pristine natural forests in Koh Kong province. The valley is home to an ethnic Chong community that has resided in the area for centuries. It also contains the habitats of rare and endangered animal and fish species, including the Asian Arowana, Asian Elephant and Siamese Crocodile (Yeophantong, 2014).
The struggle against the construction of the Cheay Areng dam has a long history–The project was previously defeated in 2006 and 2010 when public outcry over environmental concerns caused two separate Chinese hydro-power companies to withdraw their investments. The project has met fierce resistance from local activists, employing community-based direct action tactics such as mass protests and road blockades, strategies that are groundbreaking for Cambodia’s emerging environmental movement. The community organizes through a number a different groups including a Women’s group, a Youth’s group, and the Mother Nature NGO.