Villagers fighting for their land against two firms in Koh Kong province demanded their cases be resolved before next month’s national election at a protest outside the provincial hall yesterday.
About 80 villagers representing 300 families affected either by Chinese firm Tianjin Union Development Group’s massive $3.8 billion tourism development in Botum Sakor and Kiri Sakor districts or Heng Huy Agriculture Company’s concession in Sre Ambel district braved the rain to demand a solution.
“We want the authorities to measure and give us land titles before the election or we will continue to protest at Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house in Phnom Penh,” 45-year-old Boy Dy from Sre Ambel’s Chi Khor Krom district said.
Dy said he had lost 7 hectares to Heng Huy, which had been clearing 58 hectares of his community’s land since 2009.
The affected families claim they were coerced into signing over their land to the firm through intimidation from both the company and provincial authorities in 2010 and were never given promised land titles afterward or any compensation.
Last month, they again demanded the contracts were annulled after threatening suicide early in the year.
Hundreds of families have fought Tianjin Union Development Group since the firm was granted a 36,000 hectare concession to develop its mega tourism project in 2008 and a subsequent 9,100 hectare concession to build a hydropower dam.
Rong Ki, 42, from Botum Sakor’s Thma Sar commune, said Tianjin Union Development Group had taken away 100 hectares of land from his community of 40 families.
“It is the rainy season, but we cannot cultivate on the land, Ki said. Provincial hall administration director Ouch Touch said 12 representatives had been invited to speak with Deputy Governor Phay Thuon Phlam Kesorn, but declined to say if a solution was reached.
Phay Thuon Phlam Kesorn could not be reached yesterday. Officials from Heng Huy and Tianjin Union Development Group did not return calls. Neang Boratino, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, posed that neither company nor provincial officials had any intention of compromising.