In a joint statement Friday, a group of local NGOs denounced the “serious human rights abuses” of a Chinese company accused of illegally evicting families in Koh Kong province and called on the government to ensure that the firm honor its obligations to the state.
Since 2010, the Union Development Group (UDG) has forced more than 1,000 families off a 45,000-hectare tract in Botum Sakor National Park to make way for a $3.8-billion tourist complex. It has continued to pressure a few dozen holdouts—some claim to have been living on the land for decades—to leave as well.
“We…condemn the repeated and ongoing violation of communities’ rights in Botum Sakor and Kiri Sakor districts by Union Development Group,” says the statement, which is signed by Adhoc, Licadho, the NGO Forum, the Community Legal Education Center and the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee.
In the latest development in the land dispute, UDG security guards last month completely or partially dismantled 11 homes and cleared 30 hectares of land the families were farming on a site where the company wants to build an airport to serve the resort.
In their statement, the NGOs say UDG’s contract with the state requires that it adhere to the government’s “leopard skin policy,” under which firms granted land by the state must let families already living there stay put if they refuse to leave.
“The activities of the company not only represent serious human rights abuses,” the NGOs add, “but also a breach of the Royal Government of Cambodia’s letter…issued by the Council of Ministers on February 12, 2014.”
That letter, they say, orders UDG to stop razing the homes and clearing the farms of families that have refused the company’s offers of compensation.
Som Thy, who watched UDG security guards take the roof off his home last month, said the 11 families most recently targeted by the firm were still refusing to move.
“Some of the people are sleeping in their boats. I have put up a tarp to cover my home,” he said. “I haven’t heard about any deadline for me and the others to move out, but we have to stay here, because we don’t know where else to go.”