Koh Kong Families Reach Agreement With UDG

About 100 additional families have accepted compensation pack­ages from Union Deve­lop­ment Group (UDG) to relocate and make way for the massive development project the Chinese firm is building along the coast of Koh Kong province, according to the Environment Ministry.

UDG has already pushed about 1,000 families out of their homes to make way for its 45,000-hectare, $3.8 billion tourism complex.

The environment minister’s dep­uty cabinet chief, Srun Darith, said on Tuesday that about half of the 200 families who have yet to move off the site accepted the com­pany’s latest offer, which included a 2-hectare farm and a 5,000-square-meter plot on which to build a new house at a relocation site.

“A few days ago we compromised and reached a solution with about 100 families and both sides agreed,” he said.

Sim Kimsen, whose family was one of the 22 in his village to ac­cept the offer, said the package also included compensation of $30 per lost fruit tree and be­tween $3,000 and $20,000 for the families’ homes, depending on how big they were. He said the company had agreed to throw in some cement, sand and other build­ing materials as well.

“The 22 families went to get the money from the Chinese company on May 15,” Mr. Kimsen said. “I agreed to move because I think the company has provided suitable compensation, and I think my current land does not have title. We will move to the relocation site when the company has finished clearing the land.”

But he said about five families in his village rejected the offer.

Prak Than, a member of one of these families, said he and the other holdouts do not like the relocation site and are insisting that UDG let them stay put.

“I don’t want to take the compensation or move to the new site because where we are now, it’s easy to do business and raise animals,” he said. “The relocation site is near the foot of a mountain. There is no water and it would be difficult to raise animals.”

In Kongchet, provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, said the company, which has had several tense at times violent—confrontations with the families living on the project site, had softened its approach of late.

“The Chinese company has chan­ged its attitude in negotiations with the villagers,” he said. “In the past the company always used force and violence and never negotiated.”

Representatives for UDG could not be reached for comment.

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