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A man takes shelter under a makeshift hut next to the burned remains of his house that was allegedly razed to the ground
A man takes shelter under a makeshift hut next to the burned remains of his house that was allegedly razed to the ground by Union Development Group in Koh Kong earlier this month. Heng Chivoan

CNRP to gauge land dispute

Lawmakers-elect from the Cambodia National Rescue Party are scheduled today to visit families in Koh Kong province affected by a long-running land dispute with Union Development Group, just weeks after the company destroyed dozens of homes there.

Rights groups say that Chinese-owned Union Development has burned down some 45 homes belonging to villagers in Koh Kong’s Botum Sakor district over the past few weeks to make way for its 45,000-hectare resort, and CNRP chief whip Son Chhay said yesterday that party officials will travel there to assess the situation.

“We will check the reality of how much damage there is,” he said. “The government has to immediately stop grabbing people’s land and putting people in jail so that they can irresponsibly give the land to foreign companies.”

Chhay added that after the assessment, he would attempt to broker a suitable resolution on residents’ behalf.

In May 2008, the government gave Union Development a 99-year lease on 36,000 hectares of land in Kiri Sakor and Botum Sakor districts to develop their resort. In August 2011, the government granted the company another 9,100 hectares to construct a reservoir and hydropower dams. The projects affect more than 1,100 families.

Neang Boratino, a coordinator for rights group Adhoc, applauded the CNRP delegates’ initiative and said that the families whose houses were burned down still haven’t been offered compensation.

“Thus far, [villagers] have not had any resolution yet,” he said. “What the CNRP lawmakers are doing is right, because they are parliamentarians and they have to visit people who are suffering. We also ask lawmakers from other parties to do so.”

Botum Sakor district governor Khim Chandy said that authorities had promised to resolve the situation, and that villagers were welcome to build temporary shelters in the interim, but said that full resolution was out of his hands.

Company representative Ly Teuk Hay could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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