Some 100 people from five villages in Oddar Meanchey’s Chongkal district protested over the weekend against a hydropower dam project built by Chinese firm Sinohydro, claiming they have yet to be compensated for their eventual displacement when the flood gates close in the next few weeks.
Designed to store water for agricultural use for Oddar Meanchey, Banteay Meanchey and Siem Reap and under construction for the past two years, Sinohydro plans to close the flood gates within 15 days, according to villagers and rights group Adhoc.
“The company will close its gate and we will be flooded. They promised to give us compensation, but they have not until now, so we’re protesting to stop them,” said one protester who declined to be named.
“Our Srah Keo village with 158 families will be flooded and relocated, and until now we’ve gotten nothing,” he said, adding that his home and 20 hectares of rice fields will be flooded. The protester is asking for $8,500 per hectare in compensation.
The demonstrations took a pause yesterday morning after officials from the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology promised to meet with protesters to find a solution today.
What’s more, some 3,000 hectares of the Rokha Vorn community forest – an endangered-species habitat – as well as five ancient temples will also be flooded, according to the community forest chief, the Venerable Bun Saluth, who was awarded the United Nations Equator Prize in 2010.
“The dam will destroy my forest, animals and ancient temples. We’re demanding some acceptable compensation for the community who is taking care of the forest,” he said.
Srey Naren, provincial coordinator for Adhoc, noted that villagers have protested several times since the construction began in 2014, but the problem remained unsolved.
“The authorities just promised to and did not solve the dispute for villagers, while the company keeps constructing. Five villages with hundreds of families are affected,” Naren said.
Villager Khiev Pich was arrested and detained in prison for more than two months for protesting against the company in 2015, Naren said, adding that Pich was released after Adhoc’s intervention.
Bou Sakhorn, deputy provincial governor, who saw the protests, said that Sinohydro has been clearing 50-by-100-metre land plots for families to relocate to, although the preparation is not complete. “Villagers just want it now. It is difficult.”