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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rights group takes aim at huge tourist project

Rights group takes aim at huge tourist project

A Chinese company granted a vast land concession in Koh Kong province has destroyed the homes of more than 1,100 families and taken 10,000 hectares of their land, leaving most of them with nothing, a report released by the rights group Adhoc yesterday says.

The Union Development Group, which was granted a 36,000-hectare economic land concession in the Kiri Sakor and Botum Sakor districts in April, 2008 for a US$5 billion mega-tourism zone, has also failed to pay agreed-to compensation to those it has displaced, the report says.

Ouch Leng, the head of Adhoc’s land program, said the company had simply breached an agreement with the Ministry of Environment to pay between $2,500 and $8,000 in compensation per family and provide a few hectares of land.

“[They are] living in horrific conditions. Their right to their homes was withdrawn,” Ouch Leng said.

“Villagers who were forced to move just got fake promises from the authority and [the company] took over their land without fair compensation,” he said.

Abetted by military police, the company had forced villagers to relocate and would often threaten them if they resisted, Ouch Leng said.

A total of 1,500 homes had been destroyed, and two schools and three pagodas were forced to relocate.

Prak Thorn, a 68-year-old villager forced to move from the area, said he could not understand why the company did not compensate him.

“They [the company] got a lot of land from the government already. Why did they need my small plot of land?” he said.

The 36,000-hectare ELC breaches Cambodian land law, which limits such concessions to 10,000 hectares.

Last August, the company was granted an additional 9,100 hectares in the protected Botum Sakor national park to build a hydropower dam.

Thuk Kroeun Vuth, secretary of state at the Ministry of Environment, said government research conducted before the concession was granted had shown that the development would have a positive impact on local people and the environment.

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