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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Developer, soldiers ‘destroyed 29 homes’

Developer, soldiers ‘destroyed 29 homes’

Representatives of Chinese company Tianjin Union Development Group, backed by soldiers, annihilated crops and burned the homes of 29 families in Koh Kong’s Botum Sakor district last week, rights groups say.

According to a report given to the Post yesterday, a two-day fact-finding mission spearheaded by rights groups Licadho, Adhoc, the Community Legal Education Center and the NGO Forum showed that families were forcefully evicted from their homes by soldiers who were allegedly working for the Chinese Tianjin Union Development Group.

Hour In, a provincial coordinator for Licadho, said yesterday that homes were destroyed and fields set on fire over a six-day period, beginning last Tuesday and ending on Sunday.

“They destroyed mango, coconut and watermelon plantations and were violent to the villagers who tried stopping them,” he said.

Soldiers kicked and handcuffed protesting residents, he added, and said the final report will be delivered to provincial courts today.

The NGOs’ findings follow a report in the Post last Wednesday of at least four houses being destroyed by authorities in the area.

Kim Soren, 59, said yesterday that she was handcuffed by soldiers as they dragged her out of her home of 21 years before destroying it.

“I shouted for them to stop demolishing the house. They kicked me when I tried to collect my things from the house and then pushed and handcuffed me,” she said. “They were cruel.”

On Phearak, Botum Sakor district governor, said yesterday that villagers had already been warned to leave.

Authorities in Kiri Sakor and Botum Sakor districts gave orders for families to vacate their land last year to make way for a large-scale ecotourism development.

And yet, last week, according to Ing Kong Chet, a provincial coordinator for Licadho, more than 340 families remained because they had yet to receive any compensation.

In 2008, Union Development Group were the recipients of a 36,000-hectare land grant to construct a $5 billion mega-tourism zone in Botum Sakor and Kiri Sakor districts.

The company could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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