Local authorities in Koh Kong province said yesterday they had started clearing 100 square km of forested land in Kiri Sakor and Botum Sakor districts as part of a resettlement plan for 1,000 families affected by a massive tourism project planned by China’s Union Development Group.
“We try to arrange new villages for the people, allowing the company to start its development as soon as possible,” said deputy provincial governor Sun Dara, adding that so far construction had started on about 100 houses in Botum Sakor district.
Botum Sakor district governor Orn Phearak said that construction work was taking place on land he described as “degraded forest,” and that work would not take place in areas of dense vegetation.
He added that the company had also constructed a 50-km road branching off National Road 4 that will be used to deliver supplies to the development area.
Environmentalists say that the road runs straight through areas where wildlife diversity and forestland are abundant. They also say that better access to the area will increase the likelihood that poaching and logging activities take place in areas of environmental importance.
Im Vourny, deputy director of Botum Sakor National Park, said he was unaware of the project’s recent developments and declined to comment on the potential effects that work in the area could have on the environment.
On May 18, about 240 villagers protested in Phnom Penh against the project, which is to be built over the next 25 years and is part of the government’s plan to develop Cambodia’s coastal provinces.
The $3.8 billion development project is planned within the 171,250-hectare Botum Sakor National Park, one of the 34 richest repositories of fauna and flora on the planet, according to Wildlife Alliance.
The Chinese firm is planning large-scale projects, including a golf course, airport and several large commercial zones. Company officials at Union Development Group did not respond to written questions submitted yesterday.
(Additional reporting by Simon Marks)