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More houses razed in dispute

A man sits in a makeshift shelter after his home was burned to the ground in Koh Kong province this week
A man sits in a makeshift shelter after his home was burned to the ground in Koh Kong province this week. PHOTO SUPPLIED

More houses razed in dispute

Authorities burned one house and demolished three others in the past two days in Koh Kong’s Botum Sakor and Kiri Sakor districts in the latest development in the long-running land dispute between villagers and Tianjin Union Development Group, community representatives and the rights group Adhoc said yesterday.

Including the four most recently demolished houses, said Adhoc provincial coordinator Neang Boratino, 34 houses and hectares of crops had been destroyed over the last 10 days at Union Development’s behest.

Four women were kicked and beaten, and some restrained for trying to stop the demolition, he added.

“That is a blatant rights abuse, because they used force to burn and destroy the properties, and beat people as well as handcuffed them. They are victims of land grabbing and of physical abuse,” Boratino said.

Prak Thuok, a Botum Sakor community representative, said that the demolition crew consisted of paratroopers, soldiers, military police, security guards and Chinese nationals representing Union Development.

“We showed them the documents we got from district and provincial authorities to seek a solution, but they did not look at them at all.

“They just said the words ‘burn and demolish’, and that it was a fake document,” Thuok said.

“I do not know what to do when the country has a law and they are law enforcers, but they do not follow it.

“When I called the district governor, he said he did not know anything,” he added Botum Sakor district governor Orn Phearak defended the recent demolition yesterday, saying the land legally belonged to the company, but noted “I did not attend this morning’s demolition, so I do not know well”.

In Peam Kay village, 19 families refused compensation from the company, saying they had steady livelihoods in the area, said Phin Vannak, 21, whose house was destroyed yesterday by Union Development.

“They not only didn’t give any compensation, but they also felled our houses, forcing us to leave without reparation. It is very unjust,” he said.

Union Development could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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