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Residents claim threats over anti-dam slogans

Residents of Stung Treng province who are facing eviction due to the Lower Sesan II hydropower project accused local officials yesterday of threatening to arrest them if they don’t refrain from hanging banners reading “Would rather die than leave” on their homes.

Six local officials allegedly tried to strong-arm villagers to remove the banners or face being reported to their superiors, said Hvot Khoeun from Srekor I village.

“They threatened the commune councillors that they will be arrested if the villagers continue hanging the slogans,” Khoeun said. “They can arrest us. But we are hanging it at our homes and on our land. We are not abusing anyone.”

Residents have, so far, hung 50 banners and continue to make more, Khoeun added.

Villager Sarim Khom said people started putting up the banners last week, but authorities didn’t issue the ban until last Tuesday.

Srekor I village chief Leang Saroeun, however, denied the residents’ allegations.

According to him, local authorities went door-to-door last Tuesday to meet more than 40 families who refused to register their lands and properties.

“We did not force them. Our working group just went to collect the data for the province, so that they can resolve the compensation policies for affected people,” Saroeum said.

According to a provincial commission report, the Sesan dam project will displace about 1,000 families living in seven villages in Stung Treng.

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