When completed, the Lower Sesan II dam will inundate 36,000 hectares (89,000 acres) of forest and force 5,000 people to relocate, activists say.The Bunong, an ethnic minority group whose livelihood and culture depends on the river and the forest, will be among the most affected by the dam.Even before the dam is completed, Bunong villages like Kbal Romeas have been divided, as some residents accept compensation packages while others staunchly refuse to leave their land. At a time when much of Cambodia is developing at a breakneck speed, where smartphones and BMWs have become almost as ubiquitous on the streets of Phnom Penh as saffron-robed monks, the village of Kbal Romeas inhabits a world apart. Tucked deep into the jungles of the country’s untamed northeast, the village has no convenience stores, streetlights, or paved roads. Instead, a visitor would be more likely to find a stretched snakeskin nailed to a piece of teak, drying in the midday sun as a testament to the animist beliefs of the people who live there. Kbal Romeas and its residents are Cambodian only by the decree of modern geopolitics. They are Bunong, a 2,000-year-old tribe of forest dwellers who have populated the area since long before the concept of the modern Cambodian nation existed. And they are among the people with the most to lose when the Sesan II hydropower dam comes online. From Steung Treng, the nearest major city and the provincial capital, there are two ways to reach Kbal Romeas. For those with a sturdy enough vehicle, a jarring and potholed dirt road is drivable for parts of the year. The other is by boat, following the Sekong River out of town and then winding southeast along a series of tributaries until the village can be glimpsed between knots of resin trees. All these channels lead back to one place, the river known variously as the Lifeblood of Southeast Asia, the Great River, or The Mother of Water: The Mekong.