Dam Protesters to Meet with Officials

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Residents of six villages listen to company representatives discuss a stop to construction on a nearby dam on Saturday. (Photo: Supplied)

Residents from six villages in Oddar Meanchey’s Chong Kal district can now get some respite from the construction of a hydropower dam they claimed was encroaching on their land. 
Provincial officials have now agreed to meet with their representatives after nearly 100 villagers from the six villages stopped construction of the dam on Saturday.
The Chinese Sinohydro firm is accused of illegally clearing trees on land owned by village residents near Ator Mountain in Pungro commune to make way for the dam. 
About 96 residents of Sras Keo, Akor, Char Thmey, Bak Nim, Kon Damrey and Tumpeu villages comprised the group that stopped further felling of trees at about 9am on Saturday. Provincial authorities, including officials from the Provincial Hall, the Department of Water Resources and the Ministry of Finance, are to meet with residents to address their accusations, with the first meeting scheduled to have taken place yesterday. 
The group of residents travelled to the Sinohydro construction site in eight improvised trucks and 33 motorcycles. Resident representatives said the firm would be allowed to continue their development only after they had addressed its impact on local communities. 
Provincial deputy governor Bou Sakhorn and Thin Nhean, chief of the provincial Water Resources Department, promised the villagers that their concerns would be discussed, adding that Ministry of Finance officials would meet with them yesterday.
The Ministry of Finance could not be reached for comment yesterday.  
Regardless of promises, however, as the planting season nears an investigation into the villagers’ allegations is imperative, said their representatives.
Provincial governor Sar Thavy declined to comment on the allegations yesterday, saying he was in a meeting with Thai officials discussing border issues.
The Sinohydro dam has been under construction for two years, and if completed will provide water for agricultural use to Oddar Meanchey, Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey provinces. Khiev Pich, a resident and protester of the project, was arrested last year and later released thanks in part to NGO intervention.

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