About 80 villagers involved in a land dispute with Chinese-owned Union Development Group (UDG) in Koh Kong province suspended their roadblock protest on Saturday afternoon following negotiations with the local authorities, a rights worker and villagers said Sunday.
The protest, which began on Wednesday evening, blocked a road that led to the headquarters of the company, which is building a 45,000-hectare tourism resort and airport in Botum Sakor National Park.
It ended after provincial officials agreed to some points regarding housing after the villagers’ homes were allegedly set on fire in January by UDG staff and soldiers, and following promises that no more forced evictions would take place.
“The Kiri Sakor district governor agreed with the villagers that he would not allow any more properties to be removed by the company,” said In Kongcheth, the provincial monitor for rights group Licadho.
Mr. Kongcheth said villagers from that district would also be allowed to construct temporary shelters within the disputed area in order to continue fishing until the construction needs to move in.
“The Bokum Sakor governor said he will send his officials to investigate the incident sites to find out whether the allegations of fire and land bulldozing is true or not,” Mr. Kongcheth added.
Last week’s road block saw company representatives allegedly threaten to bring in paratroopers to break up the road block if the villagers did not stand down.
Sun Kim Soeun, 58, said she intends to file a report on her damaged property to Kiri Sakor district’s Koh Sdech commune office, as requested by the mediating authorities.
“They [local authorities] want to know how much the villagers lost due to the fire and land bulldozing,” she said, adding that she was unsure whether there would be a proper investigation.
“I will bring my children to stay and protest near the district governor’s home if I don’t receive my land. I told the officials that,” she said.
Kiri Sakor district governor Khoem Chandy confirmed that he had agreed to the demands by villagers in his district to halt property removal and allow them to construct temporary shelters, but said the issue of compensation was out of his hands.
“For their request to have their land cut from the company’s share, it’s beyond my authority and I need to report this to the top level,” Mr. Chandy said.
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