Two days before the doors of the Lower Sesan II dam are slated to close for a test run, representatives of more than a hundred ethnic minority families in Stung Treng province yesterday appealed to the government to delay the closure to allow them more time to relocate.
About 700 ethnic Phnong and Lao residents in Srekor and Kbal Romea communes were represented by six villagers at a press conference in Phnom Penh run by the NGO Forum.
Kbal Romeas community representative Choeun Sreymom said the villagers were determined not to move to the resettlement sites out of fear of losing their Phnong ethnic identity, and would prefer relocating to a “safe hill” located 5 kilometres from their current homes.
“We ask the people who are involved, the company and [Prime Minister] Hun Sen to delay [the closure of the dam’s doors] so that we are able to move our things and find an appropriate place on the safe hill by ourselves,” Sreymom said.
Sreymom said that the nearby Srekor community also planned to relocate to a safe area that they had found 1 kilometre from their present villages but needed more time.
However, Stung Treng Provincial Deputy Governor Duong Pov said a delay is impossible.
“The closure cannot be postponed because the project has its own timeline. The dam will be closed on Saturday, and we already informed them,” Pov said by telephone.
He added that the villagers could relocate wherever they wish, but provincial authorities would not take responsibility for any loss of their property.