Cambodian Villagers Brace For Flooding in Test of Sesan II Dam

Water has already begun to rise and may submerge villagers' homes before the test ends, sources say.

A sign in Srekor commune, Stung Treng province, says 'We would rather die than leave, in spite of the dam,' July 14, 2017.

A test of floodgates in Cambodia’s Sesan II Dam looks set to flood two downstream villages, with more than 100 families vowing not to leave after refusing offers of compensation, sources say.

Residents of Srekor commune and Kbal Romeas commune in Stung Treng province are already bracing for the impact of rising water that may inundate their homes, one villager told RFA’s Khmer Service on Monday.

Deng Muon, a resident of Srekor commune, said that water levels in the villages are already beginning to rise, and that he and other residents threatened by the flood are standing by to move household goods and foodstuffs to higher ground.

“We will move to whatever point the water reaches,” Muon said.

“If the water rises to the nearby main road, that’s where we will be,” he added. “And if the water keeps rising, we may have to move to live on Krala Puos mountain.”

Many in the affected villages have already given up farming their land due to fears of floods, he said.

The company building the dam, now scheduled for completion by December 2018, had warned commune residents in a June 5 letter that floodgates would be closed in mid July, and urged villagers to leave their homes during the period of the test.

“Engineers will be looking at various aspects of the test to assess the danger of future floods, and we will continue with our shutdown until  the water level reaches 72 meters above sea level,” company representative Oum Reth said.

“Then, we will check everything again, and we will also talk to any residents who remain.”

Rescue plans in place


Reth dismissed reports that his company and Cambodian authorities had forcibly evicted any residents from the area, adding that his company had fully cooperated with local officials to publicize offers of compensation to villagers wishing to move.

“We are trying hard to respect the feelings of the residents because we don’t want to see any rumors being spread,” he said.

Stung Treng provincial government spokesman Men Kong said that authorities are already prepared to rescue residents affected by the test and transport their belongings to safer ground.

Authorities have also urged company officials to provide homes for the more than 100 families, 124 in Srekor and 58 in Kbal Romeas, who have so far refused compensation to be moved, he said.

“Intervention planning involves covering all areas of concern in response to any possible emergencies,” he said.

Reported by Chanthy Men for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sovannarith Keo. Written in English by Richard Finney.