Villagers Displaced by Chinese Project Still Await Farmland

Provincial authorities in Koh Kong province have failed to provide families who have been displaced by a massive Chinese tourism development with farmland before a Dec 15 deadline, villagers said yesterday.

Num Hom, 55, a villager in Botum Sakor district’s Ta Noun commune, said she had been living at the relocation site in the area for nearly two months without farmland.

“I asked the commune authority about the land, but they say I have to wait for a while,” she said.

Ms Hom is one person among 1,100 families who are being moved from coastal areas in Botum Sakor and Kiri Sakor districts to make way for a large-scale tourism project being carried out by China’s Union Development Group.

The firm has cleared a roughly 30-km stretch of woodland from Thma Sar commune in Botum Sakor district to Koh Sdech commune in neighboring Kiri Sakor district to make way for the displacement, and has began construction work on hotels and office blocks and more roads lining the coast.

In Saleng, 41, another villager in Ta Noun commune, said commune officials had told him two months ago that the government would allocate farmland for his family by mid-December.

“Some villagers move back to their old land to harvest rice and fish at the sea,” he said. “The difficult thing here is that we don’t know what to do.”

Whereas villagers had previously enjoyed irrigated land and the ability to fish and plant crops like cashews, coconuts and rice, they are now living on parched, deforested land dozens of kilometers from the sea, and without any health services.

Sun Dara, deputy provincial governor, said the authorities had already set farmland aside for the villagers.

“We have reserved the farmland for them already,” he said. “It de­pends on them to come and receive the land.”

In Kongcheth, provincial monitor for rights group Licadho, said the government had not done enough prior planning before moving villagers to the new site.

“There must be a plan before moving people to a new place,” he said.

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