Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Phnong want damages for Sesan flooded graves

Phnong want damages for Sesan flooded graves

Villager Brorch Rithy guides his boat through his flooded village of Kbal Romeas earlier this month.
Villager Brorch Rithy guides his boat through his flooded village of Kbal Romeas earlier this month. Jade Sacker

Phnong want damages for Sesan flooded graves

Fifty-eight Phnong ethnic families in Kbal Romeas village, whose land was flooded late last year by the reservoir of the controversial Lower Sesan II Dam, are seeking at least 1,500 buffaloes from authorities and company representatives in compensation for their ancestral graves that are now submerged.

Yun Lorang, secretary-coordinator for the Cambodia Indigenous Peoples Alliance, said the villagers met their pro-bono lawyer Sek Sophorn on Saturday, and raised the issue of compensation for the estimated 150 graves of their ancestors, elders and community leaders.

Their request comes on the heels of villagers being allowed by authorities to live at resettlement locations of their preference, rather than strictly at government-approved sites.

The ethnic minority’s traditional beliefs hold that their ancestors’ spirits inhabit their grave sites, prompting them to make the compensation request, Lorang added. The traditional compensation for a ruined grave is 10 buffaloes.

“This is the traditional condition, which we need to demand,” said Lorang, who attended Saturday’s meeting. “The traditional practice is serious. If anyone causes [damage] to their grave, they must serve them with offering elephants and buffaloes.”

Read more: Life after the flood

Lorang, who himself is ethnically Phnong, said the buffaloes will be offered to appease the ancestors’ spirits in order to prevent them from cursing and punishing their descendants.

Sophorn said negotiations for the compensation request are still ongoing, but as soon as his clients complete their request, he will forward it to provincial authorities. Villagers also plan to seek compensation for their lost crops and rice fields. “I will try my best to tell authorities about what they want,” he said.

Srang Lanh, one of the villagers, said every Khmer New Year’s Day, the villagers typically pray at their ancestors’ graves. But for the upcoming New Year in April, they don’t yet know how they will mark the occasion.

“The ancestors’ graves were deeply flooded and it’s hard for people to set the ritual,” she said. “Perhaps, we’ll pray in the water in order to tell the spirits not to punish us and the younger generation, because the flood [was due to] development, not [caused by] the young generation.”

Men Kong, spokesman for Stung Treng Provincial Hall, said officials had no policy to offer traditional compensation, but authorities could consider monetary compensation, although it would have to be less than the estimated cost of the 10 buffaloes per grave.

“It is too much, as buffaloes are expensive,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • US names new ambassador to Cambodia

    US President Donald Trump on Friday appointed W Patrick Murphy as the new US Ambassador to Cambodia, replacing incumbent William A Heidt. A press release posted on the White House’s website said nominee W Patrick Murphy is currently acting principal deputy assistant secretary at

  • Kingdom is at a crossroads between East, West after poll

    It was dubbed a success by caretaker prime minister Hun Sen after the electoral victory of his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which is poised to take all seats in the National Assembly. But the July 29 national election has not been positively looked at by

  • Chinese influence to sweep Kingdom?

    Growing Cambodia-China ties have seen the latter’s influence sweep across the Kingdom through increased investments and tourism. The Asian giant has become the leading source of foreign funds in Cambodia, fuelling the construction sector with huge casino and hotel projects. Much of the growth

  • Western poll flak is ‘pressure to take the Kingdom hostage’

    After last month’s national elections brought praise for the orderly manner they were run and managed, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman Sok Eysan dismissed criticism from the West as a “violation of the Kingdom’s independence”. He said the attitude of