Union Development Group employees driving bulldozers allegedly tore down trees and destroyed the crops of seven families who have refused compensation from the Chinese development firm in Koh Kong’s Kiri Sakor district on Tuesday.

Peurng Loun, a 45-year-old villager who has lived in Koh Sdech commune since the end of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979, said the bulldozers cleared the family’s coconut, mango and tamarind trees and threatened to destroy more.

“Last year, the company offered me compensation of $30,000 but I did not accept it ... because our livelihood depends on this land; it produces crops and fruits for us and I can do fishing, and it was given to me by my parents,” she said.

Like many villagers caught unawares by sweeping land rights reforms in the early 2000s, Loun does not have a land title.

UDG representatives could not be reached on Wednesday.

The Chinese firm is building a massive $3.8 billion tourism complex along the coast, sparking land disputes with hundreds of families. In February, 14 families in two neighbouring communes filed a court complaint against UDG security guards for burning their crops and huts.

Kiri Sakor District Deputy Police Chief Kim Socheat confirmed his forces were at the scene but said the company “only cleared the land of those families who already received compensation”. ''

However, Nheab Eurn, the Adhoc provincial coordinator in Koh Kong, said none of the families had accepted compensation. He said company representatives gave the villagers three days to leave or face having their homes torn down as well.