AROUND 30 representatives from a fishing village in Kampot province held protests Wednesday to block trucks belonging to the Keo Chea Development Company, which is reclaiming coastal land for the construction of an ecotourism resort.
Chiev Samith, deputy police chief of Kampot province, said the villagers held peaceful protests for a few hours but “lacked information” about the company’s development plans.
“Some protesters returned to their home after the local authorities explained to them about the company’s development plan. The company has a legal document approved by the government to fill the coastal area,” he said.
In contrast to the developer’s claims of pursuing peaceful persuasion, Lor Chhean, a representative of the Thnuat Community Fishery, which encompasses several villages, said he has been repeatedly threatened with arrest if he continues organising villager demonstrations.
“I am now afraid of arrest by the local authorities, so I could not participate with the villagers in today’s protest,” he said.
He said Keo Chea’s plans to reclaim 200 hectares of coastal waters would affect the residents of Kep Thmey and Torteng Thngai villages, destroying up to 1,000 jobs. The company began reclaiming coastal land on October 8 in preparation for the project.
Villager Chan Dara, 47, said that at least 80 percent of the residents depend on the community fishing zone for their survival and called for the government to provide appropriate compensation.
“We do not oppose the government’s development plan because the fishing zone belongs to the state, but if the government needs it, there should be an appropriate resolution for us as poor people,” he said.
“I am not 100 percent sure, but the company told me that it will donate 100 fishing boats to the community fishery,” Chiev Samith said, adding that no arrests of villagers had been made in connection with the protests.
Doeu Sokhom, a human rights monitor for the rights group Licadho, said that about 30 police were deployed to clear the roads leading to the development site.
Despite pushing and pulling a handful of the protesters from in front of the trucks, he said, there was no violence.