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UDG issuing eviction threats again: villagers

Security guards armed with axes, clubs and hammers have reportedly threatened villagers with eviction at the Union Development Group (UDG) site in Koh Kong province just weeks after the Chinese company pledged to peacefully resolve the dispute.

About 50 security officials arrived at the villagers’ homes in Koh Kong’s Koh Sdech commune over the weekend to measure their land and issue an unconditional one-month ultimatum to leave or be moved on by force, village representative Nai Vibol said yesterday.

“They came twice, on April 18 and April 19, and they started measuring [our land],” he said. “They did not say what they were doing, but after they finished measuring they said that we had to move within one month, without conditions.”

In March, the villagers were given a 15-day ultimatum to leave the area despite senior government officials previously ordering the company to cease all attempts to force them to leave until a peaceful resolution could be reached.

“We haven’t moved because we cannot make any money at the new location. We have struggled with everyone at the national level to cut our land out of [UDG’s economic land concession], but still we have no solution,” Vibol said.

Seven families at the site filed a complaint to the Koh Kong Provincial Hall in early February in an attempt to stop the impending forced evictions.

A meeting in March held in Phnom Penh saw representatives of more than 300 affected families meet with company and government representatives in a last-ditch attempt to end the years-long dispute.

Ponn Saroeun, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Environment, told attendees at the March meeting that their requests had been passed on to the highest levels of government for consideration.

“I didn’t know about the threat against the people, so if this is true the company has violated the agreement [with the government], because it agreed not to touch the residents,” he said at the time.

Sun Dara, the Koh Kong provincial governor, could not be reached yesterday, but he has previously promised not to allow the company to intimidate the villagers.

Vang Chav, a Union Development Group spokesman, could also not be reached.

Cambodia granted Union Development Group its multi-billion-dollar, 36,000-hectare concession in Koh Kong for a commercial hub and luxury resort in 2008.

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