Stung Treng provincial authorities held a meeting with the Mines and Energy Ministry on Wednesday to find ways to convince people refusing to leave their homes near the Lower Sesan II hydropower dam to accept compensation and vacate their land before Prime Minister Hun Sen inaugurates the facility on September 25.
Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem said 87 percent of people in the area had already left to make way for the dam development.
But about 143 indigenous families affected have rejected compensation and defiantly refused to vacate their ancestral lands, even while being flooded by dam tests, and intimidated by local authorities in Kbal Romeas and Sre Ko communes.
With Mr Hun Sen set to inaugurate the dam soon, authorities scrambled to brainstorm ways to convince the remaining holdouts during a meeting on Wednesday.
“The meeting was to find solutions for villagers who have not yet agreed to move, to discuss repairs to some roads and building some new police posts there, and to discuss finding new land for villagers who remain, in order to meet any further demands they may have,” said a ministry statement posted on Facebook yesterday.
Srekor commune chief Seak Mekong said the authorities plea for holdouts to abandon their land before September 25 fell on deaf ears.
“The authority wants the villagers left to accept compensation and move, but when I came to ask them yesterday, they said they still do not accept any offers,” he said.
Dam Samnag, a defiant villager who remains, said any amount of money or land will not satisfy them.
“The lands are too important to us,” he said.
“We are an indigenous group that wants to remains on its ancestral lands.”
Representatives of 143 indigenous families affected by the development last month came to Phnom Penh to submit a petition to the Prime Minister’s Cabinet to call for government intervention to reopen public services and stop the threat of armed forces in their communities.
When it is complete, the dam will generate 400 megawatts of power.
The electricity will supply five provinces with power – Stung Treng, Kampong Cham, Kratie, Preah Vihear, and Ratanakkiri, helping to end their dependence on electricity imported from neighbouring Laos.