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Villagers petition Union Development Group over an ongoing dispute in Koh Kong province.
Villagers stage a sit-in to petition Union Development Group over an ongoing dispute in Koh Kong province. LICADHO

Judge hears protesters involved in UDG suits

The Koh Kong Provincial Court yesterday questioned 17 villagers locked in a land dispute with the Chinese-owned Union Development Group (UDG) over a pair of competing lawsuits filed in the wake of a clash between locals and company security guards in January.

The January brawl occurred when villagers accused the company of attempting to block an access road to their homes, and moved to intervene. Villagers and guards soon began pelting each other with rocks, with villagers also allegedly throwing a Molotov cocktail at the guards.

Deputy provincial prosecutor Iv Tray, who questioned the villagers, said the company had sued the locals after the altercation for breaking a car window and injuring some security guards, with the villagers then countersuing the company for allegedly injuring some of their number as well.

“I called them in to give the testimonies for both lawsuits,” Tray said.

Three injured villagers are demanding a total of $15,000 in compensation, according to village representative Prak Thorn.

Ieng Lay, once chief of security guards for UDG, said yesterday he had left the company and declined to comment.

Meanwhile, another group of villagers who accuse the company of destroying their homes have been staging a sit-in on land adjacent to UDG’s concession since Saturday, demanding a resolution to the dispute.

“The company cleared the land and pulled down our houses before Khmer New Year,” said protester Lim Cher, 35. “On Friday, it started clearing again and the people gathered and camped out to protest . . . then, the company stopped the clearing.”

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