Villagers angered by the continued drive by Chinese firm Union Development Group to evict them from their homes in Koh Kong province have been threatened with force after they blocked a road leading to the district governor’s house.
On Tuesday, about 30 security guards from the company entered Prek Smach village in Kiri Sakor district, which is protected against forced relocation by a government order, intending to destroy houses.
Villagers intervened, according to a community representative, 71-year-old Prak Thorn. But the guards returned the same afternoon with a dump truck full of sand, which they used to block access to village.
“So we decided early this morning to block another road in front of the district governor’s office, which is a new road that was built by the district governor himself,” Thorn said. “The Union Development Group still wants us to move from here, even though they know we won’t move, and the authorities cannot do anything because they get money from the company,” he said.
UDG was granted a 36,000-hectare land concession in Kiri Sakor and Botum Sakor districts in April 2008 for a $3.8 billion mega-tourism zone. Another adjacent concession for a hydropower dam brought the total land under the firm’s control to 45,000 hectares.
In Kong Chit, the provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, said the company has been ordered to halt forced evictions in the area and refrain from using violence. “A lot of people know that most of the authorities, including the district governor and the chief of the commune, get money monthly from the company to listen to their wishes,” he claimed.
UDG representatives could not be reached yesterday.
District governor Khem Chandy denied he has taken money from the company and said if the villagers continued to block the road the authorities would “take administrative measures”, referring to the use of force. “I am not on the company’s side,” he said.