Ministry Says No Government Help Likely for Koh Kong Villagers

The Ministry of Environment said on Monday that there was little hope that some 250 families who have returned to their former land in Koh Kong province would receive government support in their bid for further compensation from a Chinese firm developing a $3.8 billion tourism mecca in the area.

After a smaller group of families received significantly larger compensation packages earlier this month—including money for their land and even the trees on it—those who had accepted smaller buyouts in 2011 and resettled 20 km away returned to Kiri Sakor district this week demanding to restart negotiations.

According to Ung Virak, a representative of those families, 174 of them thumbprinted a petition on Monday and handed it to district governor Khim Chandy.

“I submitted the petition to the district hall this afternoon to ask the district governor to find a fair solution for the 250 families,” he said.

Mr. Chandy said the case was above his authority but that he would forward the petition to the provincial government.

Sao Sopheap, a spokesman for the Environment Ministry, which has helped mediate negotiations between the Union Development Group and local families, said it was a lost cause.

“I think the return of those families to stay on the land is illegal because they agreed to a deal to receive compensation from the company, thus they are not able to put pressure on the company to get more compensation,” Mr. Sopheap said. “I think the company will not give more compensation to the 250 families because they already agreed to a deal with the company.”

UDG project foreman Ly Takhai said the company had no intention to engage with the group, which he said included only 100 families.

“We will not provide more compensation to those families because they agreed to a deal with us a few years ago,” he said.

“The company will let the government a find solution for those families, because this case does not involve the company.”

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