Villagers embroiled in a battle against the government and builders of the Lower Sesan II Dam in Stung Treng province yesterday demanded that provincial officials vacate a local pagoda they have occupied as an office.
Most families affected by the dam’s construction have accepted compensation and moved, but at least 90 families in Sre Kor village and 30 families in Kbal Romeas village are defiantly remaining in their homes.
The families, who have recently been battling floods as the dam conducts operational tests, do not want to leave their ancestral lands and say the compensation offered is not sufficient.
Provincial authorities recently moved into a local pagoda to use as an office, but villagers say they are there to put further pressure on them to move.
“They are using the pagoda as their office to monitor villagers’ daily life,” said defiant villager Fort Kheun.
“We know about your tricks, you want to monitor us all the time, then force us out of our village. You have no will to help us.”
Mr Kheun said provincial authorities set up an office in the pagoda on Saturday, despite protests by villagers for them not to do so.
“Now we want them to withdraw and if they do not, we will use our own measures, but don’t call us secessionists,” said Mr Kheun, referring to a comment made by the provincial hall spokesman.
“We already told you that we are not moving, so please don’t disturb us, we know how to survive the floods.”
Men Kong, the provincial hall spokesman, said that the officials set up an office in the pagoda to assist remaining villagers with the floods and in case anyone wants to discuss relocation.
“We cannot withdraw our officials because we are there to help them to move to relocation sites in the case of emergency floods,” he said.
“We are just trying to protect the security of the villagers and in the case that they do not want our help, they are like secessionists.”
Construction of the dam is scheduled to be completed in 2019 at a total estimated cost of $816 million.
Three companies are involved in the dam. Cambodia’s Royal Group owns 39 percent, China’s Hydrolancing International Energy has a 51percent stake and Vietnam’s EVN International owns 10 percent.
When it is complete, it will generate 400 megawatts of power for the provinces of Stung Treng, Kampong Cham, Kratie, Preah Vihear, and Ratanakkiri, ending their dependence on electricity from Laos.