Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Phnong want damages for Sesan flooded graves



Phnong want damages for Sesan flooded graves

Villager Brorch Rithy guides his boat through his flooded village of Kbal Romeas earlier this month.
Villager Brorch Rithy guides his boat through his flooded village of Kbal Romeas earlier this month. Jade Sacker

Phnong want damages for Sesan flooded graves

Fifty-eight Phnong ethnic families in Kbal Romeas village, whose land was flooded late last year by the reservoir of the controversial Lower Sesan II Dam, are seeking at least 1,500 buffaloes from authorities and company representatives in compensation for their ancestral graves that are now submerged.

Yun Lorang, secretary-coordinator for the Cambodia Indigenous Peoples Alliance, said the villagers met their pro-bono lawyer Sek Sophorn on Saturday, and raised the issue of compensation for the estimated 150 graves of their ancestors, elders and community leaders.

Their request comes on the heels of villagers being allowed by authorities to live at resettlement locations of their preference, rather than strictly at government-approved sites.

The ethnic minority’s traditional beliefs hold that their ancestors’ spirits inhabit their grave sites, prompting them to make the compensation request, Lorang added. The traditional compensation for a ruined grave is 10 buffaloes.

“This is the traditional condition, which we need to demand,” said Lorang, who attended Saturday’s meeting. “The traditional practice is serious. If anyone causes [damage] to their grave, they must serve them with offering elephants and buffaloes.”

Read more: Life after the flood

Lorang, who himself is ethnically Phnong, said the buffaloes will be offered to appease the ancestors’ spirits in order to prevent them from cursing and punishing their descendants.

Sophorn said negotiations for the compensation request are still ongoing, but as soon as his clients complete their request, he will forward it to provincial authorities. Villagers also plan to seek compensation for their lost crops and rice fields. “I will try my best to tell authorities about what they want,” he said.

Srang Lanh, one of the villagers, said every Khmer New Year’s Day, the villagers typically pray at their ancestors’ graves. But for the upcoming New Year in April, they don’t yet know how they will mark the occasion.

“The ancestors’ graves were deeply flooded and it’s hard for people to set the ritual,” she said. “Perhaps, we’ll pray in the water in order to tell the spirits not to punish us and the younger generation, because the flood [was due to] development, not [caused by] the young generation.”

Men Kong, spokesman for Stung Treng Provincial Hall, said officials had no policy to offer traditional compensation, but authorities could consider monetary compensation, although it would have to be less than the estimated cost of the 10 buffaloes per grave.

“It is too much, as buffaloes are expensive,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Seven positive for Covid-19, Hun Sen confirms local transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that there has been local community transmission of Covid-19. However, he urged the people not to panic even though the Ministry of Health announced the discovery of seven new cases on Sunday. Among the victims are Chhem Savuth, the director-general

  • Without shoes or a helmet, a young cyclist steals the show

    Pech Theara gripped the curved handlebars of his rusty old bike, planted his bare feet on its pedals and stormed as fast as he could towards the finish line. The odds were against him as the 13-year-old faced off against kids with nicer bikes at

  • Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway on schedule

    The construction of the more than $1.9 billion Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway has not been delayed despite the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than 26 per cent of the project completed and expected to finish in about two years, according to Ministry of Public Works and Transport secretary of

  • Over 110 garment factories close

    A government official said on November 22 that at least 110 garment factories had closed in the first nine months of the year and left more than 55,000 workers without jobs – but union leaders worry those numbers could be much higher. Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training undersecretary

  • Singapore group seeks $14M in damages from PPSP over ‘breach of contract’

    Singapore-based Asiatic Group (Holdings) Ltd is seeking a minimum of $14.4 million relief from Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX)-listed Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone Plc (PPSP) for allegedly breaching a power plant joint venture (JV) agreement. Asiatic Group’s wholly-owned Colben System Pte Ltd and 95 per

  • PM vows to protect Hun family

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed to continue his fight against opposition politicians who he said intend to smash the Hun family. Without naming the politicians but apparently referring to former leaders of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Hun Sen said there