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Koh Kong dragging feet on land order

Authorities in Koh Kong province have shied away from cutting land for villagers from a multi-billion-dollar Chinese mega-tourism development as commanded this month in a nation-wide order from Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The premier announced on June 14 he had ordered all provincial authorities to set aside land for villagers at every economic land concession within the country within six months.

But Say Socheat, Koh Kong deputy governor and president of a committee implementing the order in Botum Sakor and Kiri Sakor districts, said Tianjin Union Development Group’s US$3.8 billion resort was one of several “special cases”.

“We have to ask for the policy from the prime minister – [he] is the decision-maker,” he said.

The committee has collected data on the disputed area, granted to Tianjin Union Development Group in 2008 as part of a 36,000-hectare ELC.

Cambodia’s 2001 land law restricts ELCs to 10,000 hectares, but in 2011 the firm was granted an adjacent 9,100-hectare concession.

San Theary, 24, whose house is set to be demolished by Tianjin Union Development Group, said he felt the prime minister’s June 14 order had been an empty promise ahead of next year’s national elections.

“Though there is the committee to measure land for us, we don’t believe that all authorities will cut land from the company, and what they said just makes the villagers have confidence for the election,” he said.

Ing Kong Chet, provincial co-ordinator for the rights group Licadho, said provincial authorities were unwilling to tackle the big Chinese company.

“If they have the will to settle the problem for those villagers, they can do it, but if they just went down to get the information from the commune chief, they cannot settle the problem,” he said.

When the development concludes, 1,143 residents will have been evicted, 1,500 homes demolished and two schools and three pagodas relocated, according to rights groups.

To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at titthara.may@phnompenhpost.com

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