Energy Minister Visits Dam Site to Ask Villagers to Leave

Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem on Wednesday met with some 200 people from families refusing to make way for the under-con­struction Lower Sesan 2 hydropower dam in Stung Treng province, hoping to persuade them to take the compensation on offer.

Although the government has proceeded with plans for a reservoir that will flood their homes in Sesan district, families living in the area have refused to accept the proposed payout: 5 hec­tares of farmland elsewhere in the district and the choice of a new house or $6,000.

Siek Mekong, the chief of Srekor commune, said on Thursday that the minister met the villagers at a local pagoda and was joined by Royal Group chairman Kith Meng, whose company is building the 400-mega­watt dam in collaboration with

China’s Hydrolancang International Energy.

“The villagers have to move at the end of 2016, so they need to consider cooperating with authorities,” Mr. Mekong said. “The government wants to resolve the issue peacefully.”

Provincial government spokes­man Men Kung said the roughly 600 other families in the dam’s way have agreed to the government’s offer and that about 200 of them have already moved.

“We will try to work with the families that have not yet agreed, but those families have to move by January or February 2017 because the [dam] gate will close in September [2017],” he said.

Tha Vy, one of the holdouts who attended Wednesday’s meeting, said she and the others were unimpressed with Mr. Sem’s entreaty.

“I have decided not to move, even if the flood comes,” she said. “I would miss my homeland and the land of my ancestors. If I go somewhere else, [their spirits] will curse me, and my family will not be happy.”

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