Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Delay Sesan dam: villagers

Delay Sesan dam: villagers

A woman carries water from the river in Stung Treng province’s Srepok commune in February
A woman carries water from the river in Stung Treng province’s Srepok commune in February, where the controversial Lower Sesan II dam is to be built. Pha Lina

Delay Sesan dam: villagers

Villagers who will be displaced if the controversial Lower Sesan II dam is built called on the developers yesterday to postpone construction for five years, allowing time for a comprehensive resettlement scheme to be devised.

But a government official dismissed their request as “beyond the pale”, saying the project had been carefully thought through and would benefit the whole nation.

Srey Lybe, 56, one of eight community representatives from Stung Treng province speaking in Phnom Penh yesterday, said his people stand to lose not just their land, but their traditional culture.

“We are deeply concerned about this dam construction, and if it happens, our ancestors’ graves will be buried in the reservoir basin,” he said.

“Relocating us, it means that our ethnic tradition and identity will be scattered and damaged.”

Many of the nearly 5,000 people who may need to relocate because of the dam are ethnic minorities, including Prov, Phnong and Lao.

Lybe added that the villagers were making the request after assessing several proposed relocation sites, which they say are not yet suitable for cultivation.

The 400-megawatt dam is a joint venture between Cambodian tycoon Kith Meng’s Royal Group and Hydrolancang International, a subsidiary of state-owned China Huaneng Group, which formed Hydropower Lower Sesan II Co Ltd in November 2012. In February, the Post revealed that preliminary construction at the dam site began in November 2013, despite official denials.

Mark Hanna, chief financial officer at the Royal Group, did not respond to a request for comment yesterday. Representatives of Lower Sesan II Company could not be reached.

Despite the villagers’ protests and criticism from civil society groups, the dam looks to be on schedule to be completed in 2017.

Doung Pov, Stung Treng provincial administration director, said the villagers’ request would not be considered.

“The government does it for the benefit of all Cambodians, not for one person. Before approving the project, the government thought a lot. And we are not stupid enough to place the villagers in a location where they cannot farm.”

After appearing in the National Assembly for questioning last month, Suy Sem, Minister of Mines and Energy, said that the dam will be completed in late 2017.

MOST VIEWED

  • Breaking: US House passes 'Cambodia Democracy Act'

    The US House of Representatives in Washington, DC, on Monday, passed the “HR 526 Cambodia Democracy Act”, also known as the Cambodia Democracy Act of 2019. If signed off by the president, the bill will allow two major sets of action to be taken against high-ranking Cambodian

  • ‘Zero-dollar’ tours under fire

    Minister of Tourism Thong Khon has blamed “zero-dollar” tour operators for the decrease in foreign tourists to Angkor Archaeological Park in the first half of this year and has called for action against them. Angkor Archaeological Park received 1.24 million foreign visitors in the first half

  • Some jobs off limits to foreigners from August

    Beginning from the second week of August, foreigners will be banned from driving taxis and tuk-tuks, as well as being motorcycle delivery drivers, street food vendors, hairdressers and product distributors among other lower-income jobs. Some white-collar jobs such as the head of human resources will

  • Chinese-owned shops are on the rise in central Phnom Penh

    Informal businesses owned by Chinese nationals are on the rise in central Phnom Penh, especially in Tonle Bassac commune, surrounding Koh Pich. Such businesses have sprung up notably in Central Market, Orussey Market, Sovanna Shopping Mall, Rattana Plaza, as well as Kakab commune across from