August 2, 2017

Officials deny cutting off Sesan Dam communes

May Titthara / Khmer Times

Stung Treng provincial hall has issued a letter refuting claims that authorities blocked access to flooded communities being affected by ongoing tests to the Lower Sesan II dam.

Local villagers in Kbal Romeas and Sre Ko commune have been battling floods due to heavy rains and the closing of the dam’s doors for technical tests.

Some villagers had reported that authorities blocked access to their villages in the communes, potentially endangering their lives if they were in need of emergency help.

According to a Stung Treng provincial hall letter issued yesterday, the claims are baseless.

“To protect their security, the authorities asked some visitors to travel back to their home provinces,” the letter explained. “Those visitors had come without proper preparation for the floods after being invited by some NGOs.”

Stung Treng provincial hall spokesman Men Kong said some villagers who still remain in the communes after refusing compensation from the dam builders to move have misinterpreted the police presence on the roads leading to their villages.

“In fact, we were preparing to help them during the floods,” he said. “Many foreigners also visit that area and don’t fully understand the flooding situation, so who will be responsible for their safety? Only the authorities can do so, which is why some were not allowed into the communes.”

Fort Kheun, a villager who has refused to abandon his ancestral lands, said the explanation provided by government officials is false.

Mr Kheun said visitors to the communes were not blocked for their safety, but rather so that they could not document the hardships being faced by villagers.

Soeung Sen Karona, a senior investigator for Adhoc who went to assess the situation, said authorities were focussed on blocking access to the communes for NGO workers and media members.

“They are trying to make the villagers’ lives difficult so they’ll accept compensation and leave,” he said.

The dam’s construction is scheduled to be completed in 2019 at a total estimated cost of $816 million.

Three companies are involved in the dam: Cambodia’s Royal Group owns 39 percent, China’s Hydrolancing International Energy has a 51 percent stake and Vietnam’s EVN International owns 10 percent.

When it is complete it will generate 400 megawatts of power, which will supply five provinces with electricity – Stung Treng, Kampong Cham, Kratie, Preah Vihear, and Ratanakkiri, ending their dependence on electricity from Laos.

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