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Villagers in capital to protest development

Villagers in capital to protest development

Representatives from five communes in Koh Kong province are scheduled to hold a press conference in the capital today, appealing for government intervention in a land dispute with a Chinese development company that has spanned nearly four years.

Lov Hov, a representative from Thmar Sar commune, in Botum Sakor district, told the Post yesterday villagers were staging the conference to draw attention to their plight with the Union Development Company, which was granted a 36,000-hectare economic land concession in April, 2008 to build a US$5 billion mega-tourism zone in Botum Sakor and Kiri Sakor districts.

The concession Union Development received breaches Cambodian land law, which limits government land concessions to private companies to 10,000 hectares.

Last August, the company was granted an additional 9,100 hectares in the protected Botum Sakor national park to build a hydropower dam.

“We are not angry with the government, we are angry with people who don’t respect the law,” Lov Hov said.

The representatives planned to urge the government to force the company to provide fair compensation for displaced villagers and proper infrastructure in the proposed resettlement area, he said.

Srey Khmao, another representative of Thma Sar commune, demanded that the government resolve the issue, saying: “We just want justice.”

According to a report released by the rights group Adhoc earlier this month, Union Development has destroyed the homes of more than 1,100 families and taken 10,000 hectares of their land.

The company had also breached an agreement with the Ministry of Environment to pay between $2,500 and $8,000 in compensation per family and provide a few hectares of land, Adhoc said.

In December, following a peaceful village protest against the concession, Botum Sakor district governor Chheng Chhi vowed to resign if he had not helped broker a resolution by this month.

He could not be reached for comment yesterday.