A group of men from the 58 remaining ethnic Phnong families in Stung Treng’s Kbal Romea village began collecting bamboo to build rafts to keep their homes afloat in preparation for flooding expected following the closure of the Lower Sesan II dam’s gates on Saturday.
Kbal Romea resident Foeum Sanay, 43, said the villagers intend to use the bamboo to float some 30 homes, explaining that each one needs 1,000 bamboo sticks to float. So far, said Sanay, the 15-man crew has only managed to collect around 100 bamboo sticks.
Meanwhile, representatives of 24 ethnic minority groups from 15 provinces yesterday issued a joint letter appealing to the National Assembly, the Cambodian government and the Hydropower Lower Sesan II Company to refrain from “forceful and violent evictions” of the 58 indigenous families currently in Kbal Romea.
Eighty-two Kbal Romea families have relocated to land close to National Road 78 as part of a compensation scheme, but 58 families remain in the village. The authors of the letter point to villagers’ complaints about poor soil and difficulty accessing water during the dry season at the relocation site as legitimate reasons for the villagers to remain where they are.
Stung Treng Deputy Provincial Governor Duong Pov said the authorities have no intention of violently evicting the villagers and plan to deploy hundreds of police to the area for the villagers’ protection.
“Sometimes they mock us, but we are patient,” he said.
As for the construction of floating houses, Pov dismissed the effort as a temporary and highly risky solution, saying that with a two-metre increase in water levels at the dam reservoir since Saturday, a further rise of one to three more metres could flood Kbal Romea.