AROUND 200 villagers from Koh Kong province protested in front of Wat Botum on Tuesday, calling on Prime Minister Hun Sen to intervene in their dispute with a Chinese company, which they have accused of shortchanging them on compensation.
The villagers say that China’s state-owned Union Development Group, which plans to develop a US$3.8 billion seaside tourist zone on 36,000 hectares in Koh Kong, has reneged on promises to provide fair compensation to more than 1,000 families who will be displaced by the project in Botum Sakor and Kiri Sakor districts.
Villagers have been offered land and $300 in exchange for relocating, but Chhem Amara, whose family stands to be affected by the project, said this was insufficient.
“We would like to ask the prime minister to help us get fair compensation of $7,000 per family instead of $300,”she said.
Rum Sophear, another villager, said, “The authorities take over the villagers’ land and give it to the Chinese company, but the authorities do not think about the fact that they are losing Cambodian land.”
The protesters, who donned Cambodian People’s Party T-shirts, were pushed back to Wat Botum by police after attempting to protest in front of Hun Sen’s house.
Lim Leang Se, deputy chief of Hun Sen’s cabinet, said he would discuss the dispute with the provincial committee tasked with determining compensation.
“If farmland is affected, then [the committee] will provide farmland,” he said, though he also warned villagers not to “go against the state’s development plans”.
Kiri Sakor district governor Chheng Chhe said each family would receive a 50-by-100-metre plot. “Some people were confused and thought we would not provide them land, so that is why they went to protest,” he said.
Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for rights group Licadho, said the concession appears to violate Article 59 of the 2001 Land Law, which limits concessions to 10,000 hectares.