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Rice plots blocked at dam site

Military police form a barrier on land that has been the subject of land disputes in Koh Kong province’s Botum Sakor district in May
Military police form a barrier on land that has been the subject of land disputes in Koh Kong province’s Botum Sakor district in May. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Rice plots blocked at dam site

In a first step toward clearing villagers from land intended for a planned Koh Kong provincial hydroelectric dam, a Chinese development firm has blocked a road leading to plots where villagers have continued to harvest rice.

Officials from Tianjin Union Development Group, which was awarded a 9,100-hectare economic land concession straddling Koh Kong’s Kiri Sakor and Botum Sakor districts two years ago, placed wooden blocks across the Ta Noun commune road on Sunday, said Phan Eng, 57, who lives in the commune.

“We can get across by jumping, but this makes it difficult to bring our tractors across to farm as we usually do,” Eng said.

A staff member from Tianjin Union Development Group who answered the phone when a Post reporter called yesterday refused to provide contact information for management personnel.

The move came less than two weeks before a September 20 deadline that the government’s Inter-ministerial Resettlement Committee gave more than 100 families living in the area to vacate their land. Villagers in Kiri Sakor and Botum Sakor were notified of the deadline in July. Bulldozing of the area is scheduled to begin October 1.

Families living on the economic land concession were all offered land in an area of Ta Noun commune about 10 kilometres from where they currently live, Ta Noun commune chief Yoeng Vang Vireak said.

But Tianjin Union Development Group has not offered villagers any compensation for their land or homes, Ing Kong Chet, a coordinator for rights group Licadho, said yesterday.

Blocking the road without first coming to a compensation agreement violated villagers’ rights, he said.

“It is the company’s way to induce panic in residents, and force them from their homes without compensation,” Kong Chet said. “[Villagers] have farmland. They cannot move without any compensation.”

Vang Vireak retorted that local authorities had no right to interfere with the company’s staff blocking roads because the government already granted the land concession.

“The company has the right to develop their land,” Vang Vireak said. “Residents who don’t agree with that should move to the new village that the government has prepared.”

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