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Sesan locals set up ‘illegal’ village

May Titthara / Khmer Times Share:
Villagers move their possessions to higher ground as the water from the dam rises. KT/Mai Vireak

Families living in a commune flooded by the Lower Sesan II dam have set up a new village on their community forest without the permission of local authorities.

Residents of Sre Ko commune were offered new homes in a different area and compensation to leave their village by the company behind the dam, but 76 families refused to abandon their ancestral land.

The 76 families last month agreed to leave if they could establish a new village on their community forest.

But Stung Treng provincial authorities have allegedly failed to respond to their request.

Local resident Fort Kheun said the authority had told villagers they must accept compensation and leave by the end of October.

Flooding from the dam is forcing villagers out. KT/Mai Vireak

However, officials have not yet visited the community to discuss what happens next.

“They said they would come to talk with us about establishing a new village, but have not.

“They abandoned us, so we decided to establish a new village by ourselves. We don’t need the authority’s help,” he said.

Stung Treng provincial authority spokesman Men Kong said the authorities would meet the villagers soon, adding that emergency services were still available to the community.

“Those people have no right to establish the village by themselves, it’s illegal,” he said. “We have not abandoned them and have been thinking about their case.”

KT/Mai Vireak

Mr Kheun said the community forest is part of villagers’ farming and ancestral land. 

“If the authorities are not going to help us then we don’t want them to come and move us from where we are,” he said. “We don’t want their help, we can live by ourselves.”

Indigenous resident Rot Mao said locals were happy and safe in their new village.

“We don’t want to move a second time, so please let us live with our choice,” he said.

“Before we wanted to talk to the company and authorities to get compensation for flood damage to our homes, but now we are not interested in that.”

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