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Lower Sesan II dam protesters summonsed

Villagers protest near the Lower Sesan Dam II reservoir in July in support of local families affected by the dam. Photo supplied
Villagers protest near the Lower Sesan Dam II reservoir in July in support of local families affected by the dam. Photo supplied

Lower Sesan II dam protesters summonsed

Three protesters who have been summonsed for questioning about their role in a demonstration in Stung Treng last month are calling the investigation a scare tactic designed to discourage critics of the Lower Sesan II dam.

Koeng Ban, 45; her daughter Choeun Sreymom, 26; and her brother Dam Samnang, 32, all from Sesan district’s Kbal Romea village, were given the summons last week to appear for questioning at Stung Treng Provincial Court next month.

The summons, signed by Provincial Deputy Prosecutor Kim Hongsan, said the three are wanted for questioning on September 12 for “incitement to commit crimes”.

“I will not go because my people tell me not to go,” said Ban. “If I go, all the villagers will go as well. If we go, it is easy for them to arrest and jail me, but it looks bad if they arrest me in the village.”

Ban is part of the 58 families from Kbal Romea and 117 families from Srekor still refusing to relocate ahead of the dam’s impending September 25 inauguration.

The three were among more than 100 protesters, mostly Kbal Romea residents, who demonstrated along National Road 78 last month after military police and provincial police detained a group of villagers travelling to the dam to demonstrate solidarity with locals by taking part in traditional prayers and building homes.

The right to demonstrate is enshrined in Cambodian law, and it was not immediately clear what crime the three had allegedly incited others to commit, though the vaguely defined charge is often deployed in cases with a political tint.

Prosecutor Hongsan confirmed that he issued the summons but said he could not give more details because he was busy.

“It is my warrant and it calls only three people,” Hongsan said. “The provincial authorities are the complainant.”

Stung Treng Provincial Hall spokesman Men Kong said he did not know about the case and could make any comment.

Prime Minister Hun Sen is expected to preside over the dam’s inauguration next month.

Hou Sam Ol, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, called the investigation an attempt to frighten villagers and said the two parties should settle the dispute via mediation rather than in court.

Ban’s daughter, Sreymom, said that as the victim of the dam’s construction, she should not be punished for protesting. She added that she is seeking a lawyer to advise her on whether she should appear in court next month.

“Being questioned is no problem for me, but the community will not let me go,” Sreymom said, adding that villagers feared she would be arrested.

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