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Sesan villagers request facilities

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Floodwaters reach the rooftops of abandoned homes in Srekor village. Villagers there have made demands for public facilities. Photo supplied

Sesan villagers request facilities

Over 50 families affected by the Lower Sesan II dam in Stung Treng province’s Sesan district have sent a letter to the provincial governor and prominent tycoon Kith Meng requesting a number of public service facilities for the community.

The dam, located in the district’s Kbal Romeas commune near the border with Laos, is a joint project between China-based Hydrolancang International Energy, Vietnam-based EVN International and the Kingdom’s Royal Group chaired by Okhna Kith Meng.

“The people in Kbal Romeas Chas village wish to request a road repair from where we live to the old national road 78, classrooms for the community, short training courses for two community volunteer teachers, health centres for Kbal Romeas Chas and Sre Kor Chas villages, ponds for community use, and land titles for the indigenous communities,” said the letter obtained by The Post on Tuesday.

Lat Vibol, the Banong indigenous people’s representative in Kbal Romeas, said the community would also request a place for worship as indigenous people still follow their tradition and religion.

“The companies and the government should honour the villagers’ request as people who have been relocated by the project have suffered a loss of their livelihood,” he said.

Kbal Romeas commune chief Voeun Sambat shared his sympathy with the villagers and expressed hope that their wishes would be granted so they could stop protesting.

“When provincial authorities visited their homes, they did not request a lot, but yesterday I heard they want a local shrine, which is beyond my ability. If they want it, they need to meet with the governor,” he said.

Stung Treng provincial governor Mom Saroeun on Tuesday declined to comment on the matter.

“I don’t want to talk. I’m busy now,” he said, before hanging up on The Post.

Provincial hall spokesperson Men Kong said officials have visited the community to gather information.

“After meeting with them, our officials recorded the findings and will address their concerns. But all parties must agree to give thumbprints before the issues can be solved,” he said.

Hou Sam Ol, the provincial coordinator for human rights group Adhoc, said he had received information about villagers requesting public service facilities, though he had no details on the matter.

“I am not aware of the contents of the letter. I don’t know who wrote it and why their thumbprints are needed. Villagers should doublecheck before giving their thumbprints to the authorities,” he said.

Royal Group chairman and CEO Kith Meng could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Villagers have refused to accept compensation, saying they would rather die than leave their homelands for fear of losing their tradition, culture, ancestral tombs, traditional forest and the river, which is a sustainable source of income for the community.

Prime Minister Hun Sen inaugurated the dam by closing the floodgates in October last year.

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