Representatives of Chinese company Tianjin Union Development Group, backed by soldiers, began tearing down villagers’ houses in Koh Kong province yesterday, community representatives and a district governor said.
“It’s so bad,” villager Lai Kean, 54, said. “They’ve destroyed our homes and thrown our goods out into the field.
“They destroyed three other houses [nearby]; they set fire to a piece of wood to destroy them. I lost 1 million riel [$250] and gold. Who will take responsibility for that?”
Authorities in Kiri Sakor and Botum Sakor districts gave orders for families to vacate their land last year to make way for a large-scale ecotourism development.
The families were given until last October to leave, but some have defied orders and remained on the land.
Botum Sakor district governor On Phearak said yesterday that company representatives had come to clear the residents’ houses because it was time for the development project to proceed.
The company, he said, had just “moved” the houses and set fire to some chicken cages to clear the area.
“We’ve informed and alerted them about this before,” he said, adding that many families had already left as ordered. “It is the time for the company to begin development.”
But Ing Kong Chet, provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, said more than 340 families had not yet left sites in the two districts because they had not received any compensation.
This is despite the government having designated land for the purpose of relocating villagers, he said.
“The authority sent a letter to residents telling them to move by October 2013. But how can they move if they do not get any compensation to live somewhere else? The company has come to strike fear into villagers,” he said.
The company could not be reached for comment yesterday.