More than 100 families in Preah Vihear province are demanding compensation from the authorities over the construction of a reservoir which they claim had affected their livelihoods.
The villagers said the Raksa reservoir, a government-run project for storing water in Chey Sen and Rovieng districts for farming, overlapped with their home and farmland. The reservoir is 3m deep with a floor bed of up to 400m long.
Reith Sarom, a resident affected by the project from Raksa commune’s Samrong village in Rovieng district, told The Post on Wednesday that the villagers were informed of the construction and compensation through a notice in May last year.
The notice required affected residents to suspend all activities in their locations pending a solution.
Sarom said the project had affected residents in Chey Sen, Rovieng and Kulen districts and Krong Preah Vihear.
He said the authorities had agreed to compensate the affected villagers based on their actual locations. First, residents living on roadside land will receive a compensation of $20,000 per hectare. Second, those on land away from the road will get $10,000 per hectare, and those at the point of the reservoir will receive only $700 or less per hectare.
He said the latest offer of compensation for their land was unacceptable as it was well below market prices.
“How can we agree to an offer of only $700 per hectare? We want equal or market prices. We have been prohibited from farming for nearly a year. We have mouths to feed but what can we do if we are banned from farming?
“Many families have no rice to eat. If the authorities cannot provide proper compensation for us, they should allow us to farm for a living in the meantime,” he said.
He said a Chinese company had started to bulldoze some parts of the reservoir where residents had agreed to compensation. Some parts in Chey Sen district’s Putrea and Sa’ang communes and Rovieng district’s Raksa commune had not been bulldozed amid ongoing negotiations.
Chhang Savuth, another resident living in Chey Sen district’s Putrea commune, said while he did not oppose the project, he wanted the authorities to provide proper compensation so that each resident could buy land in other locations.
“We submitted a petition to the provincial governor late last month, but we have no idea how it would be resolved.
“We are not against the reservoir project but only ask for proper compensation. If the authorities are willing to compensate us, we suggest they offer fair prices so that we can buy land somewhere else. Land is very expensive now,” he said.
Provincial governor Prak Sovann told The Post on Wednesday that the residents’ petition had been referred to the top leadership of the government for consideration. He said the provincial authorities will call a meeting with the villagers once the government makes a decision.
“Their request is beyond our jurisdiction. The project belongs to a national committee under the Ministry of Economy and Finance, and it is tasked with addressing the impact on villagers. We are preparing a meeting at the provincial level and will submit a report to the committee for a decision.
“Soon, there will be officials [from the ministry] coming to make a presentation to the residents who reject the offer. Actually, the Ministry of Economy and Finance has thoroughly assessed the impact and compensation.
“The assessment was made by independent experts. The government doesn’t just blindly make an offer,” Sovann said.