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Stung Treng villagers protest dismantling of local bridge

Villagers protest against authorities for attempting to dismantle a local bridge for the Lower Sesan II hydropower dam’s test run on Wednesday in Stung Treng province.
Villagers protest against authorities for attempting to dismantle a local bridge for the Lower Sesan II hydropower dam’s test run on Wednesday in Stung Treng province. Photo supplied

Stung Treng villagers protest dismantling of local bridge

Some 200 villagers from six villages on Wednesday protested to prevent Stung Treng provincial authorities from dismantling the Sre Pok Bridge ahead of the flooding expected when the gates of the Lower Sesan II hydropower dam are closed next month.

More than 10 workers with the provincial Department of Public Works and Transport and other authorities were still able to demolish parts of the bridge, which crosses the Sre Pok River, in Kbal Romea commune.

Van Oun, 42, an ethnic Lao villager living in Srekor village, said people from the various villages gathered at the bridge to protest the demolition.

“People are strongly against the dismantling of the bridge, because if the bridge is disassembled, it will put us in a difficult situation,” he said.

Oun said the wooden bridge, built after the Pol Pot regime, serves tens of thousands of people and that the detour authorities promised is long and time-consuming, which could be dangerous in an emergency, like a villager getting sick.

Duong Pov, provincial deputy governor, said the bridge will be flooded and ruined. He said it could also hit the dam when the gates close next month. He said authorities tried to explain this to the people, but they didn’t understand.

“The disassembling . . . will proceed,” he said. “We are thinking about constructing a detour and bridge crossing the river . . . We have plans, but just a few of them disagreed.”

He added that authorities may bring a ferry to help people get across.

The dam’s gates will close from July 15 to August 15 to conduct a technical test.

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