Some 30 villagers, representing families from Stung Treng province who are refusing to relocate from the Lower Sesan II Dam site, yesterday protested in front of the ministries of Interior and National Assembly-Senate Relations to demand officials prevent their forced evacuation and bring an end to their alleged harassment by local officials.
Let Sreyneang, 19, from Srekor village, said that after the dam went online late last month, local authorities started restricting people’s freedom of movement, and began threatening people to leave Srekor and Kbal Romeas villages.
“This is the reason motivating them not to leave their villages,” she said. “[If we] relocate to the non-flooded area from the flooded area, it will separate our families, and will cause us to lose property, time, identity, culture and tradition, and we might be faced with major problems.”
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But officials have increased their harassment and intimidation toward the mostly ethnic minority residents in both villages, which is what prompted a group of them to come to the capital yesterday, said Kem Reoun, 51, a Phnong ethnic villager in Kbal Romeas.
Authorities have been restricting villagers from their daily tasks, such as leaving the village to go to the market, he said. “In short, authorities do not allow people to leave the village,” he said. “There are people guarding every gate, and they have dismantled a bridge.”
Villagers also asked officials in the capital to help reopen public facilities, such as schools and hospitals. Sesan District Governor Ponleu Monkol said he hadn’t heard of any such instances.
Tes Rithy, an official at the Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations, said he would review the complaint and forward it to the appropriate institution.
Villagers have come to Phnom Penh to protest and request official intervention on numerous occasions.