A delegation from the National Authority for Land Dispute Resolution (NALDR) on Saturday met with more than 400 people involved in a land dispute with the Chinese-owned Union Development Group (UDG), which is building a $3.8-billion tourist mecca in a coastal forest in Koh Kong province.
A 45,000-hectare land concession in Botum Sakor National Park was awarded to UDG in 2010, and the company has since begun a 25-year project to turn the remote forest into a self-contained “six-star” tourist complex complete with its own airport and seaport.
Villagers who previously farmed in the area or fished the surrounding waters have long complained of violent harassment from the firm’s security guards to force them off the land. Van Sam Oeun, vice chairman of the NALDR, said Saturday’s meeting was meant to help resolve the issue.
“I met those people for about two hours and I told them that I came here to collect the opinions from all of them in the dispute with the Union Development Group, because we want to find a solution for them,” said Mr. Sam Oeun, who became the first CNRP lawmaker to defect to the CPP in February.
Mr. Sam Oeun said the villagers asked that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s “tiger skin” or “leopard skin” policy, which allows the government to cut patches of land out of concessions for villagers, be applied to let them stay on the land.
Mr. Sam Oeun said he would write to Mr. Hun Sen to ask that the prime minister find solutions for the villagers.
However, Som Thy, 39, who lost 9 hectares of farmland to UDG in 2010, said he was not expecting a satisfactory solution.
“Van Sam Oeun told us all that he will come here again within the month and let us know about the results of the resolution,” he said.
“But I have no hope for that promise, because many officials from the CPP and CNRP have met with the people already and never provided any answers to us.”