Sesan Dam Holdout Families Petition Ministry for Intervention

Source: The Cambodia Daily

Representatives from two Stung Treng province villages soon to be flooded by the Lower Sesan II dam call for government intervention outside the Mines and Energy Ministry in Phnom Penh on Friday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Representatives of holdout families who are refusing to evacuate two Stung Treng province villages that will be flooded by the Lower Sesan II dam traveled to Phnom Penh to petition the Mines and Energy Ministry for help on Friday.

“We wanted the Mines and Energy Ministry to intervene,” Sarun Sokhom, one of the seven representatives, said on Sunday.

The petition had been received and passed to the ministry’s general department of energy and would be discussed with provincial authorities “soon,” said Sour Ponnarith, a general deputy director of the ministry’s department of general affairs.

But while provincial government spokesman Men Kong said the villagers’ request that only some of the dam’s 10 floodgates be closed permanently next month was not an option, he said officials would try to “find a solution for the families” but would follow procedure where necessary.

The more than 100 holdout families also asked for forces deployed to assist with emergency evacuation to leave Sesan district’s Srekor and Kbal Romeas villages and for authorities to reopen health services, schools, roads and bridges in the area, according to Ms. Sokhom.

When testing of the 400-megawatt dam began in mid-June, villagers ignored authorities’ warnings that their homes would be flooded and insisted on remaining on their land.

Some villagers temporarily moved to a nearby hill when floodwaters inundated some homes, but returned when the water subsided. The rest of the roughly 5,000 families who live on land that is expected to become the dam’s 36,000-hectare reservoir agreed to go to relocation sites set up by the government.

Public services were removed from Srekor and Kbal Romeas shortly after testing began and intimidation from the officials allegedly sent to help increased, Ms. Sokhom said.

“The people want the authorities to provide the public services and we also asked the authorities to stop discriminating against the ethnic minority communities in the two areas,” she added. “They are interrupting the people’s lives.”

Mr. Kong, the spokesman, denied the intimidation accusation. He said officials had contacted Royal Group, one of two companies developing the dam, after receiving the request for some gates to remain open.

“They refused, because they cannot produce power if the gates are not closed,” he said.

Um Reth, a representative for Royal Group, could not be reached for comment.

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