Lawmaker Asks Minister to Aid K Kong Villagers

Opposition CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang on Thursday wrote to the environment minister urging him to ensure security guards for a Chinese firm building a $3.8-billion tourist complex in Koh Kong province do not evict some 30 families clinging to their homes in the areas.

China’s Union Development Group (UDG) has already evicted about 1,000 families since it began construction in 2010.

When the company started dumping truckloads of dirt onto the main road leading into the holdouts’ village late last month, in an apparent bid to force them to leave, the villagers set up a barricade on a public road nearby to pressure the government into making the firm stop.

The villagers briefly clashed with UDG security guards on Wednesday, with the villagers tossing petrol bombs at company trucks and the guards throwing rocks.

On Thursday afternoon, Mr. Chhay Eang, who heads the National Assembly’s human rights commission, said he would send a letter to Environment Minister Say Sam Al that evening urging him to protect the villagers.

“This evening, I will send the letter to the president of the National Assembly and it will be passed on to Minister Say Sam Al next week,” he said.

“The letter will ask Say Sam Al, first, to review the company’s activities to resolve this issue peacefully, and second, to prevent the company from using security forces to oppress and evict the villagers.”

Mr. Chhay Eang could not be reached Thursday evening for confirmation, but fellow CNRP lawmaker Chea Poch, who also sits on the human rights commission, said the letter had been sent.

On Wednesday, Mr. Sam Al said he would dispatch a delegation to Koh Kong to look into the dispute, but did not say when the group would head out.

The minister could not be reached Thursday. His cabinet chief, Sao Sopheap, said a departure date for the team had still not been set.

“The minister has not decided yet, because we are waiting to ask [the ministry’s] experts whether the company intentionally dumped the dirt to block the road,” he said.

Mr. Sopheap said that if the ministry finds that UDG did so, the government would “take immediate action,” but declined to elaborate.

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