Around 2,500 former Khmer Rouge families in Battambang will have to move if plans
for two hydro-electric power dams on the Stung Sang Ke river are approved.
Pal Poun, deputy governor of Samlot district, said the proposed project would flood
four villages which are home to more than 11,000 people. Some 18,000 hectares of
farmland, 11 schools, a health care center, the local commune building and all the
area's new roads will go under water.
"This is bad news for our people," said Poun. "They only moved here
three years ago and now it looks like they will have to move somewhere else again."
Ith Praing, secretary of state at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, said
neither the government nor his ministry had as yet signed off on the project for
which there was currently no start date.
However he said the hydroelectric scheme, costing an estimated $75 million, was part
of the government's plan to improve the country's electricity supply.
Each of the dams, called Battambang I and II, would generate around 60 megawatts
of power, which would be used to supply power to Battambang, Pursat, Kampong Chhnang,
Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey.
"As yet we have not given approval to any of the companies to study or build,"
he said. "[Four companies] have simply visited the sites to undertake a preliminary
investigation. After that they will write a proposal to the government."
Chim Lao Sroun, director of the Department of Water Resources and Meteorology in
Battambang, said interested companies had sent representatives to assess the viability
of the scheme for around 40 years. He acknowledged that the villagers would be affected
if the project went ahead.
Poun said the villagers had been displaced numerous times since the country slid
into civil war. However, when the Khmer Rouge was finally integrated into the government
in 1999, those people living in areas under KR control moved their homes to live
next to the river.
He said they were under the impression at the time that these homes would be their
last, and they would be able to grow fruit trees and farm to provide for the next
"My people definitely don't want to leave this place," he said. "But
if the government forces them to leave, then we will have no choice."
Poun said he did not know the current status of the deal, but said villagers were
worried. He asked the government to give fair warning of at least six months before
construction begins, as well as fair compensation to the villagers.
"This project will bring benefits to the nation, but it will also affect our
people here," he said. "We want our government to be rich, but we also
want stability in our lives."