Sesan Residents Searched Over Fears of ‘Terrorism’

Villagers living near the Lower Sesan II dam in Stung Treng province are being stopped and searched at a road checkpoint by officials fearing possible “terrorism” attacks on the controversial dam.

Tensions have been simmering for some time between provincial authorities and residents from Srekor village, which is in danger of being completely immersed in floodwater next month when all the gates at the dam are shut. About 120 families have stayed put, while the majority of the area’s 5,000 residents reluctantly agreed to move to nearby resettlement sites.

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The Lower Sesan II dam in Stung Treng province photographed in July (Zsombor Peter/The Cambodia Daily)

Forces that had been placed in the village to help with emergency evacuations have been removed, but officers are now being deployed to carry out stop-and-searches, according to residents.

Sarun Sokhom, who decided to remain in Srekor, said locals from a nearby relocation site have been angered after facing searches on a road belonging

to Cambodian conglomerate Royal Group, which is constructing the 400-megawatt dam together with China Huaneng Group.

“The people living in the new relocation site are not happy, and they complained about traveling because they were stopped to be checked when they were passing the company’s gate,” she said.

Um Reth, a representative for the Royal Group, which is owned by powerful business tycoon Kith Meng, said the gated checkpoint was managed by provincial authorities and had been set up due to fears of “terrorism.”

“We are worried terrorism would happen to destroy the hydropower dam construction,” he said.

Residents from the relocation site could not be reached for comment.

Seak Mekong, chief of Srekor commune, confirmed that officials had been carrying out stop-and-searches.

“The people filed a complaint with the commune office asking for help from me to intervene, and I telephoned the provincial authorities, but they did not find a solution for the people,” he said.

“Even though I am an authority, I have also faced difficulties traveling on the company road because I was stopped to be checked at the gate,” he said.

Deputy provincial governor Duong Pov echoed the terrorism fears.

“We are afraid they will bring in weapons or explosives to destroy the hydropower dam construction,” he said.

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