In an apparent reversal, Stung Treng province authorities on Friday said they would build public infrastructure for the 83 households from Srekor and Kbal Romeas villages who were displaced by flooding from the reservoir of the controversial Lower Sesan II Dam but declined to move into government-approved resettlement areas.

Officials earlier this month had said they wouldn’t build any infrastructure at the families’ chosen resettlement site, but would grant them the land they have cleared, in addition to the homes the company built for them at the government relocation site.

Duong Pov, deputy provincial governor, visited some 50 Phnong ethnic villagers from Kbal Romeas on Friday.

Srang Lanh, one of the villagers, said Pov promised he would comply with their request for schools and roads, but not without first telling them that it wasn’t too late for them to move to the government’s relocation site.

“But if we wanted to stay here, it [is] OK,” Lanh said.

“He will prepare [public infrastructure] and follow our suggestions [of what] we want,” he added, saying Pov had told villagers “please don’t worry”.

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However, Lanh said villagers were sceptical of the pledge, as it was only a verbal commitment.

Pov declined to comment yesterday, but Men Kong, spokesman for the Provincial Hall, said Friday’s visit was aimed at collecting information on villagers’ concerns.

Kong claimed that a health centre is already under construction at a location that villagers from Srekor and Kbal Romeas can easily access.