Former residents of two villages in Koh Kong province that were razed last week by security guards for Chinese firm Union Development Group are preparing to file a complaint to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Fourteen homes were destroyed by company security guards Thursday morning, according to villagers and a representative of rights group Licadho. The villagers are now living in an empty pagoda nearby and relying on donations of food and water.
Ses Sengheang, a representative of the evicted villagers who is still living in the UDG concession, said the evictees’ situation was precarious.
“We are now in a bad way with food, but luckily the neighbours helped us a lot by giving some of the little food they have,” she said.
Touch Sreymao, 37, said she was wounded when the guards attacked the villagers with stones, axes and knives.
“When I saw them [security guards] destroying the houses I went to help. They threw many big rocks at us and I got hit in the thigh,” she said.
Sreymao’s house escaped destruction on Thursday, but she now worries for her safety.
“I’m worried they will come again and destroy my house, too. But I’m no longer scared of those people. I’ll keep on defending my land and I won’t go anywhere.”
UDG security official Ly Techhai could not be reached.
Kiri Sakor District Governor Khem Chanti said the government’s security forces could not respond to the attack on time.
“We are really sorry that we could not do anything. As you know, the company has big, fast, modern cars. The conflict site is far away, and we did not know it was happening so we couldn’t take action in time.”
Licadho provincial coordinator In Kong Chit said UDG’s attack on the villagers went against an order from Hun Sen, and cut villagers off from their essential source of food: fish.
“The company ignored the prime minister’s orders. I will send a report” to the authorities, he said.
The land in dispute falls inside a gigantic 36,000-hectare concession granted in 2008. About $10 million out of the $3.8 billion development plan for the project has been set aside for relocation and compensation, according to UDG.
Villagers’ compensation packages are more attractive than is normally the case, including a house, farmland and financial reimbursement for property lost. But many villagers who will lose access to the coastal fishing they rely upon have rejected UDG’s offers.
“I used think of how much compensation I wanted, but where they moved us to, it seems hard to live. None of us want the compensation anymore,” Sengheang said.