Chinese Firm Razes Homes In Koh Kong

Security guards from a Chinese firm building an airport to serve a planned resort in Koh Kong province Thursday destroyed the homes of 11 families and bulldozed 30 hectares of farmland in an area claimed by both the company and residents.

The Union Development Group (UDG) has already evicted more than 1,000 families that had been living on a 45,000-hectare tract in Botum Sakor National Park the company has been turning into a $3.8-billion tourist complex since 2010.

Som Thy, 39, said his family, among those whose homes were razed Thursday, had occupied 8 hectares of land in the disputed area since 1979.

Mr. Thy said 19 UDG security guards and four Chinese employees showed up Thursday morning with a bulldozer and began tearing down the shelters.

“The company’s security guards removed 10 shelters and burned one,” he said. “Then they used a bulldozer to clear our rice fields.”

Mr. Thy said he showed the security guards a document proving that he owned the land, but they continued to level it.

“They refused to look and accused my family of occupying the company’s land illegally,” he said.

Ngau Seang Long, a manager at UDG, said the company had already compensated 1,100 families for their land, including the 11 whose homes were knocked down Thursday.

“We asked those families many times to remove their shelters from the land because we need to use it for building an airport,” he said. “But they still kept their shelters on the land for cultivating rice and other crops.”

Mr. Seang Long said the company bulldozed a total of 30 hectares of farmland Thursday.

In Kongchit, provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, contradicted the manager’s claims, saying UDG had not yet compensated the 11 families.

Provincial governor Sun Dara said local authorities were not responsible for compensating the 11 families because they were living on state land.

“We will ask for…the government to provide a social land concession for evicted [families],” he said.

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