Minister Calls On UDG to Suspend Bulldozing

Environment Minister Say Sam Al visited Koh Kong province for the second time in one month Thursday, calling on a Chinese developer to suspend the bulldozing of land for a massive resort, a rights worker said Thursday.

Union Development Group has broken ground on a controversial $3.8 billion 45,000-hectare resort in Botum Sakor National Park, on the coast of the Gulf of Thailand.

In Kongcheth, provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, said he was told about the visit by Botum Sakor district governor Orn Phearak.

“He didn’t go the disputed areas again, so he only listened to reports read by the local authorities there,” he said. “It was just a show.”

Villagers—hoping to air their grievances about a lack of compensation after their homes were burned by security forces in January—said they were disappointed that Mr. Sam Al failed to meet with them during his visit for the second time this month.

Unease is mounting for local residents, who say that their compensation claims are not being taken seriously. They also say that the land, on a relocation site set up by UDG, is not fertile and cannot support crops.

“I feel very frustrated, but I don’t know who can help me,” said Sun Kim Soeun, 58, from Botum Sakor district’s Ta Noun commune. “My rice field and watermelon plantations were bulldozed and my home was torched, so I have no idea what I can do to earn money,” she said.

Bun Leut, the provincial governor, also confirmed Mr. Sam Al’s visit. But he said that UDG is responsible for paying compensation—not the government.

“Let the company work on this issue,” he said. “It’s not the government’s job to solve this problem.”

Reached by telephone Thursday, Ngou Tieng Long, a business adviser for UDG, said he would not comment on the compensation claims.

“We paid the compensation already,” he said. “So what more do we need to pay?”

Mr. Phearak and Mr. Sam Al’s cabinet chief could not be reached for comment.

reaksmey@cambodiadaily.com

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