Eighteen Cambodian families whose land was confiscated for the construction of a Chinese hydropower dam in a northwestern province on Thursday requested that the local government and Chinese operator of the facility pay them compensation they are owed, said a local resident and an official from a rights group.
The families from Rotanak Mondol district in Battambang province said they had not received any money from Guangdong Foreign Construction Co. Ltd. or local authorities who took about 80 hectares (198 acres) of their land, although 800 other families in the area had been paid U.S. $4,000 each.
The 18 families, who say they can no longer plant crops on the land because the company is digging irrigation systems, contend that local authorities siphoned off their payments from the company to keep for themselves, said Liv Samrin, a villager from Phlov Meas commune.
“Villagers are hoping that we can get compensation in order to by land to grow crops, but the government … has not resolved the issue for us even though we’ve asked for help from the district and provincial levels,” he told RFA’s Khmer Service.
Furthermore, the villagers have accused local authorities of colluding with the Chinese company to encroach upon their land, he said.
RFA could not reach Guangdong Foreign Construction Co. for comment.
San Saroeun, head of Phlov Meas commune, said authorities are working on completing the necessary documents to compensate the villagers who have not yet received any money.
“Authorities will resolve and pay compensation to all villagers when the paperwork has been completed,” he said.
Heng Say Huy, a provincial coordinator for the domestic rights group Licadho, requested that authorities provide compensation to all villagers equally.
“It is very unjust for the villagers who haven’t received compensation because of corruption,” he said.
The construction company has been building the dam known as Battambang 1 since 2013 on about 1,400 hectares of land previously owned by 880 local families.
The project site is located about 45 kilometers (28 miles) from Battambang city near Teuk Sab village in Phlov Meas commune.
The dam, which will take five years to complete, will generate 130 megawatts of power and be used not only to provide electricity, but also to serve as a flood control facility and improve irrigation in the area.
Also on Thursday, local government officials in Chhouk district in southern Cambodia’s Kampot province had not yet declared a flood emergency for water released by a local dam that has engulfed several areas, affecting about 20,000 people and damaging 4,000 homes since Tuesday, a disaster management official said.
Nhim Vanda, vice president of the National Committee for Disaster Management, told RFA’s Khmer Service that the water is receding gradually, and authorities are able to inspect all flooded areas.
“Right now, local authorities at all levels are patrolling rivers to prevent people from dying, especially elderly people and children,” he said, adding that they also herding livestock into safe zones.
Flooding began on Tuesday after the operators of the Kamchay Hydroelectric Power Plant on the Kamchay River opened the facility’s sluice gates to release excess water from recent heavy rains.
Although the company warned local authorities beforehand, they failed to act quickly enough to prevent five communes in Chhouk district from being flooded.
The flooding occurred in three communes — Mak Brang, Kampong Kreng and Prey Khmum — that lay below the Kamchay dam, according to local media.
The chief of Mak Brang commune said he was informed about the coming water only 30 minutes before the company opened the floodgates, while the heads of the other two communes said they had received no advanced notice from local officials, The Cambodia Daily reported.
So far, no deaths or injuries from the flooding have been reported.
Reported by Morm Moniroth and Hum Chamroeun for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.