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Evictees abandon new land

A man washes clothes near his house in a relocation site built by Union Development Group in Koh Kong province’s Botum Sakor district in March
A man washes clothes near his house in a relocation site built by Union Development Group in Koh Kong province’s Botum Sakor district in March.

Evictees abandon new land

About half the Koh Kong province villagers relocated to make way for a Union Development Group resort project have abandoned the new homes provided for them, citing poor conditions and an inconvenient location, a village representative said yesterday.

More than 1,000 families living in the province’s Botum Sakor district were ordered to leave their homes and relocate to shabby wooden houses along clay roads in a mountainous area, far from their places of employment and lacking waters in which they can fish, said representative Sok San, 56.

“The homes are decayed; if we had money we’d fix it, but we don’t have money, so we just stayed,” San explained. “We don’t know what to do – the company blocked the area where we used to fish.”

On Sunday, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights country director Wan-Hea Lee visited San’s home, around which more than 60 relocated villagers gathered to tell her about problems with the new living arrangement.

Lee heard from villagers such as Hean Sophat, 45, who told her that, because of his limited financial resources, he was forced to move into a decaying wooden house with $800 in compensation.

“We did see wooden houses,” Lee said last night. “Some of [the area] has forest land; it needed to be cleared in order to be in a condition to cultivate plants, and they needed help with that.”

Elsewhere in Koh Kong, Deputy Provincial Governor Phay Thoun Phlam and a Chinese representative of Beijing-based Sinohydro Corp met with about 100 villagers in Thmar Bang district on Tuesday to discuss plans for the controversial Stung Cheay Areng hydropower dam project.

“[They] told villagers about the Chinese company’s plan to study the effects [of the dam] . . . and asked the villagers what their concerns are,” Toeu Saban, Thmar Bang district deputy governor, said.

“If the study finds that the project will produce more problems than benefits, then it will be dropped,” he said.

The meeting came a day after a new 30-soldier military platoon was created in the area, an act rights groups described as an intimidation tactic.

But Saban claimed that it had “nothing to do with the company”. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEAN TEEHAN

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