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Villagers take case to capital

Villagers take case to capital

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Representatives from five communes in Koh Kong province engaged in a long-running land dispute with a private Chinese firm urged the government to issue them proper land titles during a press conference in the capital yesterday.

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Representative Chhai Beng Hout asked the government to instruct the company – Union Development Group Co, Ltd – to allow residents to remain on their land. The area could easily be carved out of the company’s 45,000-hectare land concession, he said.

In 2008, Union Development Group received a 36,000 hectare land grant from the government to build a US$5 billion mega-tourism zone in Botum Sakor and Kiri Sakor districts. Such a concession 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.

Representative Tith Ten said company staffers repeatedly threatened villagers to relocate.

“They tear down our houses even though we don’t agree,” Tith Ten said.

“We would like to ask the Prime Minister to find a resolution for us, we don’t want to live under pressure from the company,” she added.

Lim Tong said he is too frightened to leave his house, for fear that it will be destroyed by the company while he is gone.

“I dare not walk out from my home to fish because I am afraid that when nobody is home the company staffer will come to tear down my home,” he said.

“Nobody cares about our problem,” he lamented.

Provincial governor Bun Leut said he was confused by the villagers’ complaints, since the company and authorities had already provided compensation and constructed a resettlement area.

However, Chut Wutty, director of the Natural Resource Protection Group, said the resettlement zone was substandard and compared living conditions to those under a “second Khmer Rouge regime”.

The Union Development Group could not be reached.

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