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Koh Kong Fishing Community Rejects Chinese Development

  • Heng Reaksmey
  • VOA Khmer

A Cambodian evictee stands by her hut in Preah Sihanouk Province. She is among 100 families that were evicted from a disputed land in April 2007.

A Cambodian evictee stands by her hut in Preah Sihanouk Province. She is among 100 families that were evicted from a disputed land in April 2007.

Fishermen in the coastal province of Koh Kong have accused a Chinese-owned company of forcefully evicting more than 1,000 families from their land and businesses to clear space for new development.

Union Development Group Co., Ltd, from China was granted a 99-year contract in 2008 to develop for tourism 36,000 hectares of coastal area in Koh Kong province’s Botum Sakor and Kiri Sakor districts.

Villagers said they have been relocated 20 kilometers away to a site where access to the sea is limited.

"In the past we never faced any difficulty," a fishery community representative, Tith Tein, said Tuesday at a press conference in Phnom Penh.

Villagers complained that the new location lacks enough clean water, electricity, roads, schools and access to health care.

"If we want to go fishing at the sea, we have to spend money on gasoline," said Lim Song, a villager from Botum Sakor. "There, we can only hunt wild animals and grow vegetables."

Tens of thousands of Cambodians support themselves and their families by fishing, both freshwater and in the ocean, often using techniques little changed from 100 years ago.

A Cambodian human rights group condemned the land swap as lacking “transparency.”

"At the old location villagers’ living condition was good,” said an Adhoc rights group investigator Yi Sok San. "There were schools for their children but at the new location there is mainly forest, and no health care service and some areas are ridden by malaria."

However, provincial authorities said they are working on improving the recently settled area and each family has been given decent pieces of land for housing and farming, according to Sorn Dara, deputy governor for Koh Kong.

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