Officials Show Areng Families Relocation Plan

Hundreds of families due to be displaced by the planned 108-MW Stung Chhay Areng dam were called to a meeting Tuesday with provincial authorities, who presented a plan for relocation and then distributed gifts of shrimp paste and MSG.

Heng Samnang, a staffer for local NGO Mother Nature who attended the meeting in Thma Baing district, said the deputy provincial governor was on hand to distribute the gifts to about 100 families present.

Officials from the government's working group on the Stung Chhay Areng dam address villagers Tuesday in Koh Kong province's Thma Baing district. (Sann Mala)
Officials from the government’s working group on the Stung Chhay Areng dam address villagers Tuesday in Koh Kong province’s Thma Baing district. (Sann Mala)

“Before handing out the presents of shrimp paste and MSG, deputy governor Phaithoun Phlamkesorn said, ‘This is a gift authorities have given from their good hearts, it is not for swapping with or persuading villagers,’” Mr. Samnang said.

Around thirty police, military police and soldiers—some of whom were from a new platoon created on Monday to guard the area—also attended the event, he said.

Nonetheless, most of the villagers who attended the meeting still seemed opposed to moving to make way for the dam, he said.

Mr. Phlamkesorn and other officials at Tuesday’s meeting could not be reached for comment.

The Stung Chhay Areng dam, which is being built by Chinese hydropower company Sinohydro, is expected to flood around 20,000 hectares and force 1,500 villagers, including many members of the tiny Chong ethnic minority, off their ancestral lands.

Phun Khang, a villager who will be affected by the dam, said he refused to accept the kilogram of shrimp paste and quarter-kilogram of MSG on offer, fearing that it was an attempt to buy his acquiescence.

“I didn’t take this present because I think it was to persuade my mind. They want to move us away from the site,” said Mr. Khang, who has been manning a rotating roadblock since March along with around 15 other Chong men to stop a group of Chinese engineers from reaching the dam site.

“Almost all the villagers don’t want the authorities and company to come to study the proposed project,” he said, explaining that resistance to the project was widespread.

Also Tuesday, public works officials confirmed that a new 35-km road will be built linking National Road 48 to Thma Baing district.

“We don’t know yet how much it will cost, because the ministry [of public works] is preparing a master plan,” said Ny Sarat, director of the provincial public works department.

The Defense Ministry’s engineering department will be in charge of building the road, he added.

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