A group of 14 families in Koh Kong province have filed a complaint to the provincial court seeking compensation of more than $240,000 from Chinese firm Union Development Group.
The families from Kiri Sakor district’s Prek Khsach and Phnhi Meas communes say their houses were removed and crops destroyed by the Chinese development company.
According to the complaint, UDG representative Kim Leng led about 60 company security guards and military police to remove eight houses and destroy crops including cashew nuts, jackfruit, banana, cassava, sugar cane, pineapples, rambutan and durian across 46 hectares of land on January 11 and 12.
The families said they had cleared the vacant land for agricultural purposes in 2015, but UDG refused to allow them to harvest their crops and destroyed the fields, leading to serious losses.
The court complaint asks prosecutors to punish the perpetrators in accordance with the law and seeks $245,000 compensation for damage caused to land and crops.
Family representative Yorng Khon, 64, said she hoped the court would deliver justice to villagers.
“If we were living on the company’s land, why didn’t village and commune authorities ban the construction of our houses at the time?” she said.
“The land was free to build houses and plant crops back then, but now the company has cleared it. We are only asking the court to compensate us for our labour and the crops that we planted.”
Touch Sovannara, head of administration at Koh Kong Provincial Court, declined to comment. UDG representative Mr Leng could not be reached for comment.
In late January, the court issued a statement urging UDG security guards and protesting villagers not to clash with one another.
The statement said local authorities were trying to settle the dispute according to legal principles.