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Officials investigating Koh Kong villagers' allegations of UDG compensation fraud

A man washes clothes near his house in a relocation site built by Union Development Group in Koh Kong. Officials are looking into Bak Roneas villagers' claims that they did not receive proper compensation for their land. Sreng Meng Srun
A man washes clothes near his house in a relocation site built by Union Development Group in Koh Kong. Officials are looking into Bak Roneas villagers' claims that they did not receive proper compensation for their land. Sreng Meng Srun

Officials investigating Koh Kong villagers' allegations of UDG compensation fraud

Koh Kong officials are looking into claims that residents of Bak Roneas village affected by a massive project by the company Union Development Group were not properly compensated.

The villagers filed a complaint with Prime Minister Hun Sen's cabinet early this year, claiming they did not receive the money promised them to vacate their homes because local officials had siphoned off their compensation.

A total of 93 families from Ta Noun commune filed the complaint on January 5, in which they accuse Deputy Provincial Governor Orn Pheareak, who is also the former Botum Sakor district governor; Ta Noun Commune Chief Vaing Vireak; and Pov Chanthon, the chief of the district land management office, of allegedly pocketing some of the money from the company.

The villagers are among more than 1,000 families in Botum Sakor district who were ordered to relocate in 2014 to make way for UDG’s resort project.

Kea Te, chief of Bak Roneas village, said he had received an order early this month to collect information from villagers on how much land they were made to give up and how much compensation they received. He has done so thus far with more than 20 families.

“We are collecting it because we want to know how much they got for their compensation and we will send it to provincial authorities,” he said.

Vireak, the chief of Ta Noun commune who is among the accused, said the information will be examined to determine if there was malfeasance.

“We want to know how many hectares of land they got” at a relocation site, he said. “They just made accusations that no one compensated them.”

When asked about the allegations against him and if villagers had indeed been promised $8,000 per hectare, as they claimed, he declined to comment before hanging up on the reporter.

Koh Kong Governor Mithona Phouthong referred questions to her cabinet director, Ouch Touch, who declined to comment. Pheareak and Chanthon could not be reached for comment.

Kun Sao, 57, who is among the 93 affected families, said she was only compensated $1,750 for the nine hectares she lost to the company. The money, she said, went through Pheareak.

“They promised to give $8,000 per hectare, but after we gave thumbprints to accept the money, I was only given $1,750,” she said. “We were told that we had to accept it or not, our land would still be taken.”

Nheab Sam Oeun, provincial coordinator with rights group Adhoc, said authorities only followed through on promises at the beginning with about eight families.

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