by Hul Reaksmey / The Cambodia Daily
Representatives of 47 families in Koh Kong province that were recently ordered by the provincial court to immediately cede their homes to a Chinese company that claims the area for itself have filed their own complaint with the court asking that the eviction notice be canceled.
In a February 2 decision, Koh Kong Provincial Court Vice President Cheng Bunly orders the families to hand over their property to the Union Development Group (UDG), which is developing a 45,000-hectare tract of Botum Sakor National Park into a $3.8-billion tourist complex. Since 2010, the firm has evicted about 1,000 families from the project area.
The remaining 47 families say they have been living on and farming the land for decades, which under Cambodia’s land law should give them the right to tenure.
The families addressed their complaint—dated Thursday and submitted the same day—directly to Mr. Bunly.
“We, the citizens…are mostly poor and depend on fishing, boat taxis and farming and have no other land or homes besides our current homes. The order from the judge is like killing us,” it reads. “Therefore…please cancel the order.”
Prak Thorn, one of five representatives of the 47 families who endorsed the complaint, said on Sunday that he had been living on the land since the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979 and had never accepted compensation from UDG.
“They say that we are in their debt, so they want to get us out of our homes. But we don’t owe them anything,” he said.
In Kongchet, provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, said the families had a legitimate claim to reject the eviction order because the court failed to investigate their claims to the land before issuing it.
Mr. Bunly could not be reached.