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Equality Sought After Land Dispute

Khmer Times Share:

About 200 families gathered last week in a village in Koh Kong’s Kiri Sakor district, demanding compensation for their removal from land to make way for a Chinese-owned Union Development Group (UDG) project in 2011.
 
In Kongchet, coordinator for rights group Licadho in Koh Kong, said that in 2011, land disputes involving the families were defused via negotiation when most residents agreed to leave their homes in exchange for compensation packages from UDG. A total of 21 families, however, refused the compensation packages and were ultimately given up to $10,000 in addition to plots of land in favorable locations to vacate the village.
 
“About 200 families had given up their houses to the Chinese company and left to other locations after receiving a new house and two hectares of cultivated land each, offered by UDG in compensation,” Mr. Kongchet said.
 
When the 200 families realized more compensation had been given to the 21 families last month, however, they returned to protest against UDG.
 
“Previously they [the 21 families] had struggled to live and had resisted vacating the disputed area,” Mr. Kongchet said. “Recently they have vacated the land in exchange for cash in different amounts of compensation, depending on the size of the house in question.”
 
Ngin Pak, the 59-year-old head of one of the 200 families, said that awarding more compensation to certain families was an injustice.
 
“It was an injustice for us because the company agreed to give money in compensation – including giving 0.5 hectares of residential and cultivated land apiece to 21 families at a very nice place,” Mr. Pak said. His group of families hope to receive equal compensation.       
 
Sim Kimsan, 43, a representative of the 21 families, told Khmer Times that he and other residents had protested against UDG because they had been offered too little in compensation.
 
“It was unacceptable for us at that time, so we had decided to resist leaving and protest against the company,” Mr. Kimsan said, adding that it took five years of conflict before UDG agreed to grant the remaining families adequate compensation.
 
“In mid-May this year, the company agreed to give money in compensation to villagers, which they said were fair and adequate,” he said.  
 
UDG and the local government have pledged to grant 0.5 hectares of residential land and two hectares of cultivated land apiece in Koh Sdach commune to the 21 families, in a desirable area near a road.
 
“The working group of the government and the company have now been clearing and plotting the allocated land for us,” Mr. Kimsan said.   
The government previously granted UDG an economic land concession of more than 45,000 hectares near Botum Sakor National Park for them to develop a luxury golf resort and private airport, according to Mr. Kongchet of Licadho.
 

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