The temporary detention and questioning of 24 people travelling to the reservoir area of the Lower Sesan II dam prompted a three-hour confrontation between Military Police and provincial police officials and more than 100 villagers in Stung Treng’s Kbal Romea village yesterday.
More than 200 people from ethnic minority networks across Cambodia took four vans and two cars to Kbal Romea and Srekor villages to demonstrate solidarity with local villagers – who face flooding after one of the dam’s gates was shut for testing – by taking part in traditional prayers and helping to build floating homes.
However, Sesan district authorities stopped one van carrying 24 travellers and brought them to the provincial police station for questioning, according to villagers. Kbal Romea community representative Dam Samnang’s motorbike was also confiscated.
Incensed, more than 100 people – mostly Kbal Romea residents – protested along National Road 78. The travellers were then ordered to return home.
Environmental activists from Mother Nature posted an hour-long video clip of the protest to their Facebook account showing a group of protesters shouting at Military Police.
“Police and soldiers are assigned to protect the territory and they are not assigned to point guns at the people like this,” one protester said, before the group demanded the immediate release of the 24. The protesters then threatened to set a Military Police vehicle on fire if their demands weren’t met.
Provincial Hall spokesman Men Kong insisted the travellers were stopped for their own protection. “After questioning, we let them go home,” he said.