Minister of Environment Say Sam El urged economic land concessionaire Union Development Group (UDG) – the mega-resort developer at the centre of a long-running Koh Kong province land dispute – to provide sufficient infrastructure in the relocation areas provided for residents it displaced, a ministry spokesman said yesterday.
According to spokesman Sao Sopheap, at a meeting between the ministry, the company and provincial authorities, Sam El advised UDG to build a school, market, hospital and sufficient infrastructure to meet relocated villagers’ needs with the hope that hold-out villagers still occupying disputed land would decide to relocate peacefully.
“The minister urged the company to build some infrastructure at the new village where the evictees moved, and [to build] things that satisfy basic needs to make it easy for residents to live,” Sopheap said.
Though UDG’s relocation package is more generous on paper than that offered by other concessionaires, multiple outside observers have found its implementation to be spotty, and the company was accused in January of burning down 45 homes belonging to hold-outs.
In Kong Chet, a provincial coordinator with the rights group Licadho, said that even though the lack of infrastructure at the relocation site was a common complaint among those there, building it wouldn’t compensate those who lost homes.
“The minister suggested the company help those who were evicted violently, but he did not order them to find a solution for those whose houses were burned,” he said.
Even so, relocated villager Khat Eang, 57, said that residents had long asked for better infrastructure, and said that new amenities might be enough to convince the hold-outs.
“There’s nothing at the new village. It is far from the market, the hospital and the school, and there’s no clean water, electricity or crops,” he said. “If the new village was easy to live in, I think that other villagers who have not yet moved will decide to move and live there.”
On Phearak, governor of Botom Sakor district, home to part of UDG’s concession, said yesterday that the local authorities are gradually working towards a solution to the dispute.