Despite orders to stop, the Chinese-owned company Union Development Group (UDG) continues to bulldoze the land of Koh Kong province families to make way for a massive tourist resort, villagers and rights groups said Monday.
On February 19, the Council of Ministers issued a directive ordering UDG, which owns a 45,000-hectare-land concession within the boundaries of Botum Sakor National Park, to stop destroying villagers’ shelters and bulldozing their land until an agreement on compensation was met.
UDG formally agreed to do so, but, over the weekend, began destroying the rice fields of about 30 families in Botum Sakor district’s Ta Noun commune, said In Kongcheth, provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho.
Six UDG bulldozers, protected by two armed soldiers, Mr. Kongcheth said, are now clearing a total of 300 hectares of rice paddy, although the families had yet to receive compensation.
“They didn’t listen to the families, they just kept bulldozing,” Mr. Kongcheth said.
The plowing, 58-year-old Ta Noun commune resident Sun Kim Soeun said, was ongoing as of Monday evening.
“We told them there was a ban, but they didn’t listen to us because they have soldiers with weapons,” Ms. Soeun said.
“If I lose my rice field, I am hopeless,” she said.
According to district Governor Orn Phearak, the company was in compliance with the government directive that stated UDG has to “suspend the bulldozing of villager’s land if compensation remains unsolved.”
“The company is only bulldozing the land for which villagers have received compensation,” Mr. Phearak claimed, adding that only a small number of families had yet to agree to compensation.
UDG communications manager Wang Chao declined to comment saying he knew nothing of the destruction of rice paddies in Ta Noun.
“I don’t know the situation,” he said.
Villagers, human rights groups and the opposition CNRP have accused UDG of planting cassava instead of building a luxury resort in Koh Kong. Late last month, Environment Minister Say Sam Al was criticized for visiting company representatives in Koh Kong, but failing to meet with representatives of the families who have lost their land.