Two Years on, Sesan’s Ethnic Communities Attempt to Restart Their Lives


Fut Kheun has been keeping a close watch on the water levels at the Sesan II reservoir, in the remote Srekor commune of Stung Treng province.

The ethnic Kreung villager is living close to the water at the reservoir, two years after ethnic minority communities were forced from their homes to make way for the 400MW Sesan Dam reservoir. Fut Kheun’s family is among the 60 that have rejected government compensation and have chosen to remain close to their ancestral lands.

Since then, Fut Kheun and other villagers have had to keep a constant eye on the water levels, attempting to restart their traditional practices, even though their familial lands and the graves of their ancestors now lay below hundreds of feet of water.

“It has been a few years and the water level doesn’t remain stable. It increases and decreases,” he said, adding this made it hard to find a suitable location to restart their community.

The Sesan II dam was highly controversial and a leaked government-commissioned study had warned of a devastating impact on the Mekong’s fisheries and ecosystem. Fish stocks were expected to drop 9.3 percent across the Mekong Basin, according to a study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the U.S.

At the time, Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government downplayed the environmental impact and approved the $816-million project.

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