More than 200 locals, students and NGO staffers joined together yesterday to pray for Cambodia’s rivers and to raise awareness of the potential deleterious effects of the Lower Sesan II dam and the proposed 2,600-megawatt Sambor dam.
An annual International Day of Action for Rivers ceremony has taken place in Stung Treng’s Kbal Romeas village since 2015, after a community representative saw a similar ceremony in Thailand the year before and brought the idea home, said Bun Thann, a coordinator for 3S Rivers Protection Network (3SPN). This year, ceremonies also took place in Kratie province’s Koh Thnaoth village and Ratanakkiri province’s Seang Say village, Thann said.
Sem Vuthy, an alumnus of Earth Rights International’s Mekong School and a consultant on land development for NGOs, said he first pitched the idea to the Koh Thnaoth community as an opportunity to “talk about how people make their livelihood off the river and how the river is connected to the people”.
Central to the ceremonies in each province, which included dancing, painting and speeches by community elders, were prayer sessions, in which locals asked water spirits to protect their rivers from the impacts of the Lower Sesan II dam and the proposed Sambor dam.
In Stung Treng, Thann said, monks blessed the Srepok River, while indigenous Phnong people asked the spirits to preserve their river from Lower Sesan II and curse those responsible for its construction.