Villagers Blocked From Stopping Construction

Security guards hired by the Chinese-owned Union Development Group (UDG) thwarted an attempt Friday by 10 villagers to bring a halt to the company’s clearing of land in Koh Kong province, locals said.

In 2010, UDG began construction of a purported $3.8 billion tourist resort on a 45,000-hectare land concession where more than 1,000 families have been evicted.

On Friday morning, 10 villagers attempted to march onto land that was being cleared by UDG bulldozers.

But the company’s security guards blocked the road, said Chey Sarin, 52, who farmed on 5 hectares of farmland given to the company. He said UDG recently began clearing his land in Kiri Sakor district’s Koh Sdech commune.

“Two bulldozers are clearing 1 hectare of my farmland,” he said, adding that he had worked the land since 1997.

Koh Kong provincial Governor Bun Leut said he was aware of Friday’s incident and has ordered local authorities to keep an eye on the situation, but added that UDG has a license to develop the area.

In Kongchet, provincial coordinator for local rights group Licadho, said the government has repeatedly ignored villagers’ requests for help.

“[Authorities] are protecting the Chinese company,” Mr. Kongchet said.

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