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Villagers from Kiri Sakor and Botum Sakor districts protest in front of a Tianjin Union Development office in Koh Kong
Villagers from Kiri Sakor and Botum Sakor districts protest in front of a Tianjin Union Development office in Koh Kong yesterday. PHOTO SUPPLIED

More homes torched

More than 100 villagers from Koh Kong’s Botum Sakor and Kiri Sakor districts have been protesting outside the offices of Tianjin Union Development for the past two days after firm representatives, backed by soldiers, began burning and tearing down their houses, community representatives and rights group Adhoc said yesterday.

Company representatives and local authorities have together demolished 42 homes in Ta Noun commune and two houses in Koh Sdech commune since last week, Adhoc coordinator In Kong Chet said.

About 115 villagers blocking the road in front of the firm’s offices were briefly dispersed without injury by company employees on Wednesday, he added.

“They came to block the road in front of the company office demanding that [Tianjin Union Development] take responsibility for burning down their houses,” Kong Chet said.

Authorities in both districts gave orders for families to vacate their land last year to make way for the large-scale ecotourism development.

The families were given until last October to leave, but some have defied the orders and remained on the land.

Prak Thouk, 56, a representative for the villagers camped outside the company’s office, said yesterday that villagers were not backing down.

“We have been protesting for two days, but company representatives still do not come out to negotiate with us. We will sleep on the road until they do speak with us,” he said.

The loss of their homes and crops was impossible to handle without compensation, said Son Kem Sern, one of the protesting villagers.

“The company can’t burn down our houses without paying anything. We need them to negotiate with us so we can build and farm,” she said.

Local authorities are working to negotiate a solution, Botum Sakor district governor On Phireak said yesterday. “We’re appealing for the residents to calm down for the time being.”

District police chief Pen Sophorn emphasised yesterday that the conflict has remained non-violent. “Police came here only for security. There has been no violence,” he said.

Tianjin Union Development could not be reached.

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