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Bulldozers will not move us, families insist

Provincial authorities discuss Union Development Co Ltd’s 99-year land lease with villagers in Koh Kong province’s Botum Sakor district in 2012.
Provincial authorities discuss Union Development Co Ltd’s 99-year land lease with villagers in Koh Kong province’s Botum Sakor district in 2012. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Bulldozers will not move us, families insist

More than 100 families living in Koh Kong’s Kiri Sakor and Botum Sakor districts are on the clock, with an official government decree demanding they vacate their land in less than two months or face the bulldozers of the Chinese firm slated to build a new hydropower dam in the area.

Required to permanently relocate by September 20, residents were notified in mid-July that Union Development Co Ltd’s preliminary development of the area is scheduled to start on October 1.

In an official notice signed by representatives of a government inter-ministerial committee, governors of Botum Sakor and Kiri Sakor are instructed to clear residents off the land by the late September date.

“If residents do not vacate the company’s land following this announcement, the committee takes no responsibility for the destruction or loss caused by the arrival of company-owned bulldozers,” the letter states.

Phan Eng, 57, a resident of Botum Sakor, says he won’t move.

“The company only gave us three months to move and no compensation for our farmland,” Phan Eng said.

Considered by many to be unlivable, the land allocated for the relocated communities lies three kilometres from Phan Eng’s village, devoid of any public infrastructure and covered in forest.

“How can we live in a wild area? We have been using our farmlands to support our families and housing since 1998. We filed complaints in our provinces and Phnom Penh, but there is no solution,” he said.

Botum Sakor district governor On Phearak confirmed the mandatory relocation, saying that most families had already left.

And yet, monetary compensation has yet to be distributed, said resident Lai Kean, 53.

“I will not move until the company compensates me. My family has 10 hectares of land here,” Lai Kean said, adding that no student volunteers had measured her land.

Residents dealing with land disputes have been filing complaints with Licadho since 2010, provincial coordinator Kong Chet said.

“The remaining residents are struggling to defend their land,” he said.

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