About 40 security guards armed with axes and AK-47s and working for the Chinese-owned Union Development Group (UDG) on Sunday demolished the homes of three villagers who claim to own land on UDG’s sprawling $3.8-billion beachside tourist development in Koh Kong province, villagers said.
UDG has been building a 45,000-hectare self-contained tourist mecca since 2010 in the Botum Sakor National Park, a remote headland that lies midway between Sihanoukville and Khemara Phoumint City. The company has evicted more than 1,000 families who once supported themselves on the land by farming and fishing.
A small group of villagers have refused to move to a relocation site about 20 km inland, which neither has a water supply nor electricity, and the Chinese company has been intermittently accused of employing violence to coerce them to leave.
Villagers said UDG guards arrived Sunday morning and took about 20 minutes to tear down the three iron houses built by families refusing to leave the Kiri Sakor district land.
“It was very cruel because they came to break and destroy our property without mercy as if they had to take revenge with the villagers from several past lives,” said Keo Phorn, 51, who said that he witnessed the destruction of the three houses.
Mr. Phorn said the guards with AK-47s did not fire their weapons but stood nearby as others used the axes to tear apart the houses while the villagers watched.
“One home owner was in her home but these security guards entered her home and grabbed pillows and nets to throw away and asked her to leave the house,” he said.
Another villager, Sok Sovanny, 70, said she had owned two plots of land in the area since 1987 and 1998, respectively.
“They acted like terrorists because they would come at night if they were burglars,” she said. “They torched my home once already and now they came to break down my roof.”
Company representatives could not be reached for comment. Khem Channdy, the deputy provincial governor, said he was unaware of the incident and would look into it.