Ten representatives of 143 indigenous families affected by the development of the Lower Sesan II hydropower dam in Stung Treng province gathered yesterday to submit a petition to the Interior Ministry and the Prime Minister’s cabinet.
The petition called for government intervention to reopen public services and stop the threat of armed forces in their communities, and noted that the families will not leave their ancestral land.
Local representative Lat Vibol said armed forces have been monitoring and threatening the 642 people who remain living in the area since testing of the water gates at the dam began last month.
He said the authorities have also shut down public services such as hospitals, schools, infrastructure and roads, making the lives of the remaining residents very difficult.
“We do not oppose these developments, but we ask the government to reopen all public services,” he said. “The people in the area are also Cambodians, and need public services the same as everyone else. It seems as if the authorities are doing this to discriminate against us indigenous people.”
Another resident and member of the Pu Nong indigenous group Sarorn Sokhom said ancestral graves cannot be relocated from the area, so residents will never leave the land.
“We ask Prime Minister Hun Sen to decrease the hydropower project to 250 megawatts so we can continue to live in our village. We also want an end to threats from police. Please give us our freedom and our rights,” she said.
Interior Ministry and cabinet representatives accepted the petition, saying it would be handed to expert civil servants to address the issues.
Kong Chamroeun, secretary to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet, said: “I accepted their petitions. Technical officers will carry out further work on the matter.”
Mines and Energy Minister Nong Sareth said 87 percent of people in the area had already left to make way for the dam development.
But representatives of indigenous people from Sesan district’s Sre Kor and Kbal Romeas villages have said they will continue to lobby for a solution to stay on their land.
The Lower Sesan II hydropower dam is to generate 400 megawatts and was approved by the cabinet in November 2012, with three companies investing $816 million in the scheme.