About 100 ethnic minority members were forced to trek 12 km on Wednesday out of a Stung Treng village on the verge of being flooded by a new hydroelectric dam after authorities blockaded a road.
The group, some of whom had traveled from as far as Preah Vihear province, was leaving Sesan district’s Kbal Romeas village, which faces imminent flooding along with Srekor village, as the Lower Sesan II dam’s 10 floodgates have been progressively closed this month.
They held a traditional ceremony on Tuesday to call upon ancestral spirits to support dozens of villagers who are refusing to leave the area despite warnings from authorities.
As they tried to leave on Wednesday, however, authorities blocked the vans from picking them up, said Choeun Sreymom, one of the Bunong ethnic minority members.
“Police blocked the road with barricades,” she said, adding that the group eventually met the vans 12 km away in the early afternoon after setting off at about 9 a.m.
Men Kong, spokesman for the provincial government, confirmed that military police and police had been deployed and said they had stopped the vans because some parts of the road had already flooded.
“We were worried…because the water is rising up strongly,” he said.
The blockade comes a day after U.N. monitors were stopped from entering the area, with officials citing similar safety concerns.
The water’s depth at a baseline measuring station stood at 67.6 meters, Mr. Kong said. Srekor would begin to flood at 68 meters, he said on Tuesday.