Thirty indigenous people representing 136 families living near the Lower Sesan II hydropower dam gathered in front of two government ministries yesterday asking for intervention to stop local authorities attempting to push them off their land.
The residents of Sre Ko commune in Stung Treng province’s Sesan district called on the government to instruct local officials to cease the deployment of armed forces and resume public services in their village.
Kim Roeun, 51, a member of the Pnong ethnic minority, was one of those who submitted petitions to the Interior Ministry and Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspection on behalf of the families.
He said local authorities were persecuting them in a bid to force them to relocate away from the dam.
“The authorities do not allow people to gather or visit their relatives. They do not allow anyone to go in or out of the village. They removed our bridge, deployed military forces to suppress us, and are disrupting health and education services. All of this is making our lives very difficult,” he said.
Lach Chamroeun, another indigenous villager, asked the two ministries to intervene and provide collective land registration for the community, stop discrimination, withdraw the forces that are monitoring people, and reopen public services.
“The authorities said the dams would cause floods in the village so people had to move. But in fact, the dam gates have already closed and not everywhere suffered floods, so we want to live on our land in the old village,” she said.
Tes Rithy, an official from the Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspection, said civil servants would examine the petition and seek to resolve the case if it falls under the jurisdiction of the department, or forward it to the relevant authorities.
The Interior Ministry said it would also check and resolve the issues in the petition according to due process.
Prime Minister Hun Sen last month ordered Stung Treng provincial authorities and the firms behind the Lower Sesan II hydropower dam to prepare compensation money and alternative homes for the families still refusing to leave their land.
He added that developments always affected the environment and local people, but said the government and private companies must work together to compensate villagers and minimise the environmental impact.