Approximately 80 families have volunteered to dismantle their homes or cease home construction on the banks of the Sekong River in Stung Treng province, while others are submitting requests for a new plot of land at a different location following orders issued by the provincial authorities in late December to relocate.
Siem Pang district governor Phan Yuth said approximately 200 families living along the river are required to relocate.
He said the authorities have not yet forced them to dismantle their homes but have requested that they relocate so the land along the river’s banks can be developed.
He added that the authorities would like the process of relocating to be completed early this year in order to proceed with plans to beautify the area.
Yuth noted that the move was also intended to keep the families affected safe from natural disasters like the river bank collapsing or flooding.
“Now, there have been some landslides and homes collapsing and our people are concerned about it. We are afraid of increased danger [to them] when the water flow is strong,” he said.
Yuth added that another reason for the move was the maintenance of public order and to maintain state control of the land along the river bank.
The authorities have allocated land for the families at a new location, including land for a market for them to sell goods, in Sekong and Thma Keo communes.
Each family would receive a plot of land measuring 25m by 45m to build their home on, he continued.
“We’ve already constructed roads and canals at the new location for them. The people just have to go build their homes there to stay,” he said.
One of the people living along the river banks, Pin Kunthea, told The Post that the authorities had already tried to get them to relocate a few years ago but the compensation was not acceptable and they refused to leave.
Now, however, the authorities had allocated land for them to relocate to and so they happily agreed to go, she said.
“I think sooner or later we will end up having to relocate, so we’ll do it sooner because we can use our old wood to construct a new house. And if we agree to relocate earlier than others we might get a better plot at the new location,” she said.
Another villager, Sdeung Phoeung, acknowledged that the people living along the river are worried about flooding and river bank collapsing so the plan to relocate will benefit them.
“It is good that the authorities will exchange land with us because living along the river means dealing with too many issues. The land and our homes can collapse into the water when floods happen,” he said.
However, another villager, Khat Pin, expressed disagreement over the timing of the relocation.
She said most of the people are not opposed to relocation in general, but currently it is not a good time to undertake such a move because some people are facing financial crisis amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Now there is an epidemic [Covid-19] and it is too hard to make money. Right now we lack the money needed to relocate. We don’t disagree [with moving eventually], but [until the economy improves] it would be better to postpone the relocation,” she said.