Villagers affected by controlled flooding at Cambodia’s Lower Sesan 2 hydropower dam petitioned the country’s Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Ministry of Interior on Tuesday for their help in being allowed to remain on their land, sources said.
A July 15 shutdown of floodgates on the U.S. $781 million project located on Mekong River tributaries in northeastern Cambodia’s Stung Treng province has sent water levels rising in the Srekor and Kbal Romeas villages of Sesan district following government appeals to residents to relocate to other areas.
Hundreds of residents have already accepted compensation plans offered to them by the government and project managers to move, but about 143 families remain, saying they do not want to abandon their ancestors’ tombs or the place they have called home for generations.
Following an Aug. 29 meeting in the capital Phnom Penh with an official of Cambodia’s interior ministry, Kbal Romeas village representative and member of the Phnorng ethnic minority group Choeun Sreymom told RFA’s Khmer Service that group members remaining in the villages want title issued for their land.
They also want police and other authorities sent to watch them to be withdrawn, she said.
“Our villagers have been completely cut off from road traffic, but now we have to deal with armed security personnel,” she said.
“We are demanding that we be allowed to remain on our land, since we already have rice paddies there. We do not want to be forced to relocate to new places determined by the government.”
“Anyone directly affected by this situation will know how painful this is,” she added.
'Can't abandon our homes'
Also speaking to RFA, Lath Vibol—another member of the group of 10 petitioning in Phnom Penh—said that villagers remaining on their land want the government to ensure they can continue to live where they have always lived.
“We cannot abandon our homes, and especially our ancestors’ tombs. We can’t move these to any new location,” he said. “We are requesting that authorities promise us that the dam floodgate shutdown will not result in our region being submerged, so that we can continue living in the same location.”
On Aug. 25, villagers submitted a similar request for intervention to Cambodia's Ministry of Mines and Energy, where ministry officials promised only to pass the petition along to senior officials for their review.
As a result of ongoing floodgate tests at Sesan 2, water levels in Sre Kor are expected eventually to rise to about 220 feet. A local bridge connecting Sre Kor to main roads, along with a few roads in Kbal Romeas where the dam is located, are now flooded, villagers told RFA in earlier reports.
Reported by Chanratha Sorn for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sovannarith Keo. Written in English by Richard Finney.