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Villagers embroiled in a land dispute with UDG in Koh Kong work on a boat last year that a family had been using for shelter after the firm allegedly burned down their house.
Villagers embroiled in a land dispute with UDG in Koh Kong work on a boat last year that a family had been using for shelter after the firm allegedly burned down their house. Heng Chivoan

UDG plaintiffs called

Koh Kong’s provincial prosecutor has invited four community representatives to provide statements regarding violence allegedly committed in January during an ongoing land dispute with Chinese company Union Development Group.

The invitation was received this week by residents of Prek Smach village in Kiri Sakor district, who filed a lawsuit against UDG in March for what they claim were criminal cases of “intentional violence”.

Plaintiffs Sim Kimsan, Nhan Phannang, Soth Ty and Sem Noeun have been called to offer their versions of events on September 30 in a meeting with prosecutor Iv Tray.

According to Kimsan, six plaintiffs were injured in a clash with the company’s security forces when UDG attempted to block road access to their community.

However, only four among them have been invited to testify at the court.

“I wonder why the court invited only four people, but I have to offer my testimony,” Kimsan said.

“I am demanding $3,500 compensation in total, as the company’s security forces threw stones at us and we received head injuries.”

Kimsan added that the company also filed a complaint after the clash, demanding $2,000 from people who allegedly broke the windshield of a company car, but that lawsuit has not been settled yet.

UDG was granted an economic land concession for some 36,000 hectares in Kiri Sakor and Botum Sakor districts for the development of a major tourist attraction, costing $3.8 billion.

The concession has been contested since 2008 by groups living on the land, with efforts at mediation so far failing to resolve the dispute.

Nheap Sam Oeun, Koh Kong provincial coordinator for the human rights NGO Adhoc, said that the organisation had identified 318 unresolved cases of families in dispute with UDG across the province, where local authorities claim that only 40 cases remain unresolved.

“Some people who moved to a new location were faced with an even more difficult situation,” he explained.

“Therefore, the rest of the community does not want to move to the new site and have set up a protest.”

Neither UDG’s company representative, Ly Tek Hai, nor the Koh Kong provincial deputy prosecutor who summoned the four, Iv Tray, could be reached for comment yesterday.

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