Indigenous Pu Nong Youth: Kbal Romeas Village Affecting by Dam

Cambodia Indigenous Youth Association (CIYA) trained youth in Kbal Romeas on how to report the story from their villages by using their smartphone, June 2017.

Seiha Tiep

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16 youngsters from the Pu Nong indigenous people of Kbal Romeas attend a two-day training on basic storytelling. They live in an area that will be flooded as a result of the construction of the Lower Sesan II dam being built nearby. The youth feel they should capture the village (school, spiritual forest, farm land, health post and so on) before it is too late. They learn to use their smartphones to capture pictures, videos and interviews with some of the remaining 58 families in Kbal Romeas who have  rejected the current compensation offer. Photo by Seiha Tiep/Oxfam.

One of the youngsters in the village,  Lat Sreyoun, , lost the opportunity to go to school when  it was shut down mid-2016, as a result of the hydropower development. Youths who finished grade 5 or 6 and can read and write some Khmer language and  are considered to be the most educated persons in the village. Photo by Seiha Tiep/Oxfam.

The youngsters ride on a tractor to find locations and villagers to interview. Part of their training is to learn how to take photographs and to develop their interviewing skills. Photo by Seiha Tiep/Oxfam.

Chhang Sreylang is cooking and says she doesn’t want to leave her village because she wants to keep her rice field, house, forest, river, wild animals, honey, flowers, fungus and other natural products. Photo by Seiha Tiep/Oxfam.

For the Pu Nong, like many indigenous Cambodians, land and forests have major spiritual significance as they link them to their ancestors and to natural spirits. These relationships are key to the community’s cultural identity and to its sense of wellbeing. These things will be lost, when the water is blocked for the dam project. Photo by Seiha Tiep/Oxfam.

Youth practice interviewing techniques with Lat Nuch in front of a corn farm. Nuch says the same as Chhnag Sreylang did: he has missed school attendance since it was closed down and he doesn’t want to leave his village. Photo by Seiha Tiep/Oxfam.

“If I have a chance I will go to school again,” said Sarith Sreymou. Photo by Seiha Tiep/Oxfam.

“We want the youth in Kbal Romeas to learn how to tell our story to outsiders,” said Saraen Hin, CIYA staff. Photo by Seiha Tiep/Oxfam.

“We are human beings as well, just like you; please treat us well,” said Broch Rithy, Pu Nong youth representative in Kbal Romeas village. Photo by Seiha Tiep/Oxfam.

“I don’t want to leave my village, where I was born ,“ said Chhnang Sreylang. Photo by Seiha Tiep/Oxfam.

“If the water comes, I will move to a nearby hill because then I can still do my farming,” said Thong Min. Photo by Seiha Tiep/Oxfam.

On 27 June 2017 workers started to remove the Sre Pok Bridge as it is expected that the reservoir levels will reach to above the deck of the bridge. Photo by Seiha Tiep/Oxfam.

Phone services are very limited in Kbal Romeas. The village is located 13km off the main road and approximately 24km from the Lower Sesan-II dam. In the rainy season (May to November) it takes a 40 minutes motorbike ride to reach the village, over a bumpy and muddy road. Photo by Seiha Tiep/Oxfam.

 

The indigenous Pu Nong inhabit Kbal Romeas, a village in the Sesan District of Stung Treng Province. They say that their land, their livelihoods and their way of life are under threat from the construction of a large hydropower dam. The village is one of several due to be inundated by a reservoir that will be created by the Lower Sesan-II Dam. This dam is currently under construction on the Sesan river by the Chinese-Cambodian company Hydro Power Lower Sesan 2 (HPLS2). The site is approximately 1.5km upstream from Sesan’s confluence with the Srepok river and 25km away from where both rivers join the Mekong. According to consultants[1] who completed an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in October 2008, the construction of the dam will destroy 30,000 hectares of forest along the Srepok and Sesan rivers, and significantly impact on wildlife habitat as well as 24% of the agricultural land in Sesan district. Creating a flooded area of 335km2, it is feared the  project will also have a severe impact on migratory fish stocks while requiring the (in)voluntary resettlement of 1,579 households to six resettlement areas. In 2014, HPLS2 promised those that were to be relocated an 80m2 living plot for each family, 5 hectares of farmland, $6,000 plus provision of food for one year. However, some of the affected families chose to stay in their villages. Photo by Seiha Tiep/Oxfam.

[1] Key Consultants Cambodia

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