Chinese Tourism Project Results in Drought for Villagers

Hundreds of families displaced by a sprawling Chinese tourism project in Koh Kong province are facing a water shortage as the rainy season comes to an end, villagers and rights workers said yesterday.

Sok San, 51, a villager in Botum Sakor’s Ta Noun commune, said local authorities told his community they would build proper infrastructure before the villagers moved in. But families have now been living there for three months, and they still have no medical centers, schools or a sanitized water supply.

“We hardly have any water left, and we don’t know where to get the water from,” said Mr San.

The firm behind the development, China’s Union Development Group, has cleared large sections of forest to make roads along the coast in Kiri Sakor and Botum Sakor districts.

The firm has also cleared a roughly 30 km stretch of woodland from Thma Sar commune in Botum Sakor district to Koh Sdech commune in neighboring Kiri Sakor district to make way for the displacement of about 1,100 families.

Dy Sovann Deth, 30, another villager from Ta Noun commune, said families were also waiting for provincial authorities to allocate farmland to replace their previous land, which was abundant in cashew, coconut and banana trees.

“We came to live here without any land and no orchards,” he said, adding that the site was situated on higher land, which is parched during the dry season.

Rights workers have called for the government to place more demands on the company to cater for displaced families.

“The government should take a stance and cooperate with the company to build infrastructure and support villagers’ lives,” said In Kongcheth, provincial monitor for the human rights group Licadho.

Provincial governor Bun Leut said he had ordered authorities to carry out a report looking into the infrastructure needs at the relocation sites.

“They are working on evaluating the infrastructure,” he said. “We are looking for a water source where we can get clean water.”

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