Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered Stung Treng provincial authorities and the firms behind the Lower Sesan II hydropower dam to prepare compensation money and alternative homes for about 100 families still refusing to leave their land.
Speaking yesterday at the inauguration of the dam in Sesan district, he said more could be done to encourage the last villagers to accept compensation and relocate.
“As far as I know, those who have not yet left still have crops on rotation in the area,” Mr Hun Sen said. “If money and homes were prepared for them, they have the option to take those, if they agree to leave.”
He added that developments always affect the environment and local people, such as in Kbal Romeas and Sre Ko communes, but said the government and private companies must work together to compensate villagers and minimise environmental impact.
“There is no development project that does not affect the environment, large or small. We always have to balance whether or not to go ahead,” he said.
Fort Kheun is one of a number of people who has refused to leave. He said he and other villagers will not abandon their ancestral territory.
“I am happy to live on my old farmland. If the government could find us a place to live where our ancestor’s spirits are, we would consider that, but we will not accept compensation to move to any other place,” he said.
He added that villagers are resolute in their intention to stay, despite the threat of floods from technical testing at the dam.
“We can survive by ourselves; we don’t need help from the company or the government,” he said.
Right group Adhoc investigator Soeung Sen Karona welcomed the government order to prepare compensation and homes, but said officials must hold proper discussions with the families.
Stung Treng provincial spokesman Men Kong said authorities had already constructed homes and put together compensation packages for the residents of 106 houses that are refusing to leave.
He said his officials will visit the villages to speak to locals about what happens next.
“We will investigate how to help them to safety if their village floods,” he added.
Under the compensation policy, he said some villagers will receive $6,000 in cash, plus land for building themselves a house on the resettlement site. Others will receive $10,000 and no land.
Construction of the Lower Sesan II hydropower 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 51 percent stake and Vietnam’s EVN International owns 10 percent.
When it is complete it will generate 400 megawatts of power, which will supply five provinces with electricity – Stung Treng, Kampong Cham, Kratie, Preah Vihear, and Ratanakkiri, ending their dependence on electricity from Laos.