Cambodia: Authorities ‘ignore’ Sesan villagers

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Some of the flooded homes affected by the dam in Sre Ko commune. KT/Mai Vireak

The last families refusing to relocate from their homes near the Lower Sesan II dam have accused local authorities of being unwilling to settle their case.

Two weeks ago, the remaining 76 families in Sre Ko commune agreed to leave if they could establish a new village on their community forest and ancestral lands.

Resident Fort Kheun said flood levels in their village were still high and the deadline for villagers to leave had passed, but officials had failed to visit and discuss the next step with locals.

“The deadline for villagers to accept compensation was the end of October. They said they would come to talk with villagers about establishing the new village but have not. Since they flooded the village, they have ignored us,” he said.

Mr Kheun said villagers are now living in their community forest area, which is part of their ancestral lands and close to where their original homes were.

He said locals had stopped caring about the authorities and the firm behind the dam, and would continue to live on the community forest site.

“We just want to talk with the company about providing us with compensation because they flooded the old village and we could not bring our property to higher ground on time,” he said.

“We will not go to talk with the authorities and the company. We are waiting for them to come and talk with us in the village. It is too difficult for us to travel to the province.”

“I think they are unwilling to settle the problem,” he said. “They just want to force us to move to the place where they already built houses for us.”

“We will fight the authorities and the company. We will not move to the place that the company provided. We want to live where we are. Prime Minister Hun Sen has already agreed that we can live on our farm land,” he added.

Another gate of the controversial hydropower dam was closed on October 8, causing already-high flood levels to rise in the village. The level of the dam’s reservoir rose to 73 metres, forcing villagers to move to higher ground.

Stung Treng provincial authority spokesman Men Kong said the authorities already have a plan to meet with the villagers.

“We need to know if it’s sustainable for them to live on their ancestral land in the future and whether it is safe or not,” he said. “It’s not easy to create a new village.”

“Our officials will go to meet them soon. We need to study their request first.”

Source: KHMER TIMES

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