The 529 families who in 2010 traded their homes inside a $3.8 billion Chinese development project in Koh Kong province for land about 20 km away have petitioned local authorities to double the size of their replacement plots, officials said on Wednesday.
The families, most of which accepted a few hundred dollars and 2.5 hectares inland from their old coastal homes in Kiri Sakor district, are among hundreds protesting the six-year-old deal after a group of holdouts negotiated better terms in May.
With the help of the Environment Ministry, the Chinese-owned Union Development Group (UDG) in May agreed to a series of deals that gave 22 of the holdout families 2.5 hectares of land and between $1,000 and $13,000, drawing the ire of the original evictees.
District governor Khim Chandy said on Wednesday that 529 of the original families—separate from 195 that moved back to their old homes inside the tourist development last month—made their demands in a June 9 petition: another 2.5 hectares of land for each family.
“We sent the documents to the provincial governor 10 days ago, and the governor told me that he would go to see the families soon to find a solution for those people,” he said.
As for the 195 returnees, Mr. Chandy said they had started rebuilding on the site of their former homes. “We are not able to stop those families from building houses and tents because this is not our authority, but I already made a report for the provincial governor asking for a decision,” he said.
Provincial governor Bun Leut said he had received the petition and informed the national government about the families’ demands.
“Our government has granted this land to UDG for development, and we will take action to move those people from the land if the company files a complaint, because they are staying there illegally,” he added.
UDG officials have said they will leave the returnees for the government to deal with.
Environment Ministry spokesman Sao Sopheap said he knew nothing about the families that had returned to UDG’s land, but warned that none would be able to secure further compensation—and that all would be evicted. “We will look at the requests of those families to see what they really want…. If they are really building houses on the land, we will order local authorities to remove them,” he said.
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