Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Koh Kong families call on firm to resolve decades-old row

Koh Kong families call on firm to resolve decades-old row

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Villagers embroiled in a land dispute with UDG in Koh Kong work on a boat that a family had been using for shelter after the firm allegedly burned down their house in 2014. Heng Chivoan

Koh Kong families call on firm to resolve decades-old row

Three families that have held out for fair compensation from a Chinese-owned company in a decade-old land dispute in Koh Kong province urged the firm on Sunday to provide a speedy solution.

The three families – the last holdouts after hundreds of others have moved out – said Union Development Group (UDG) had built fences around their properties in Kiri Sakor district’s Koh Sdach commune, blocking their access, in an attempt to force them to give in and accept an unfair deal.

Phon Sophea, who is among the three families, said since early last year UDG had cleared the holdouts’ houses and farms and even threatened them with murder and imprisonment.

“The three families’ land is nearly three hectares combined. We’ve been living and farming on the land since 1999. The company started its investment in 2008. Since 2017, it had built fences around our houses and would not let us get in or out,” Sophea said.

Uk Savon, another villager, said the families had protested many times but to no avail. He claimed the authorities merely promised to seek a solution but provided no timeframe to achieve it.

“After many protests, the company promised to find plots of land elsewhere in exchange for ours. We don’t know where the proposed land is but we’ll only accept land adjacent or with easy access to national or major roads that enable us to make a living.

“Each family requests only half a hectare of land. As for financial compensation, we haven’t decided yet,” he said.

Lim Kim Sor, an environmental activist from NGO Mother Nature, claimed that before UDG’s investment, the area was home to more than one thousand families.

She claimed that most of them had accepted meagre compensation and left after UDG threatened forceful eviction, with only three families remaining.

The three families, she claimed, had faced various threats, and that UDG had deployed armed forces, including security guards and police, and even the courts to force them out without proper compensation.

“I’m curious about the purpose of [Prime Minister] Hun Sen’s regime in providing business licences to Chinese companies.

“I’m wondering whether it’s just an illegitimate [investment scheme] of powerful government officials and Chinese companies that are colluding to grab people’s land,” she alleged.

Kiri Sakor district governor Khim Chandy and UDG could not be reached for comments on Sunday.

UDG received a 99-year economic land concession of 36,000ha on May 9, 2008, to develop a modern satellite city in the province.

The company and the provincial authority are said to have promised to provide residential land of 50 by 100 metres and a house of six by seven metres as well as 2ha of agricultural land about 20km away for each family in exchange for their land.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Thai border crossings eased

    The Cambodian Embassy in Thailand said in an announcement on Wednesday that Thailand’s government has allowed certain passengers from several countries to enter its borders. The visitors must go back to their country immediately after their duties in Thailand are fulfilled, the embassy said.

  • Gov’t says tourism recovers slightly despite pandemic

    The Ministry of Tourism and the Phnom Penh municipal administration have recognised 33 tourism businesses in the capital which have consistently implemented safety measures for tourists and adhered to the code of conduct issued by the ministry. Recently, the ministry announced that tourism businesses had to

  • Mull ASEAN border opening, PM urges

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that ASEAN launch a scenario for gradually reopening cross-border travel and trade between countries in the region. He said ASEAN has had more success combating Covid-19 compared to other regions. The prime minister’s request was made at the

  • Ministry reports 11 new Covid-19 cases, reiterates vigilance

    Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng has urged people to continue practising virus prevention techniques after 11 people tested positive for Covid-19 within two days after arriving in the Kingdom. Speaking on Sunday, Bun Heng stressed the importance of washing hands, wearing masks or scarves when

  • Koh Rong land ‘belongs to firm’

    Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration spokesperson Kheang Phearum told The Post on Sunday that the 35ha being bulldozed by Royal Group Co Ltd in Koh Rong belongs to it after it was leased to it for 99 years by the government in 2008. Phearum said the land does

  • Nine on Indonesia flight Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health on Saturday confirmed nine more imported cases of Covid-19. The nine ‒ eight Cambodians and one Indonesian, aged 22 to 26 ‒ arrived in Cambodia on Thursday via a direct flight from Indonesia and are receiving treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hostipal in Phnom Penh.

  • Kingdom’s financial sector healthy

    Cambodia's financial sector remains on a sustainable growth path despite the Covid-19 pandemic squeezing crucial industries, National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) governor Chea Chanto said. Tourism, garments and footwear have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 impact, he said, whereas the financial and agriculture sectors

  • Vietnam told to remove border tents

    Kandal provincial governor Kong Sophoan has ordered local authorities to prohibit the construction of buildings in areas bordering Cambodia and to report any irregularities immediately. Recently, Vietnamese officials removed another seven tents from the border area with Cambodia. His remarks were made on Wednesday afternoon