A Chinese company running a quarry in Kampot province has agreed to pay compensation to 25 families in two villages that stand to be affected by explosions on a nearby mountain, a representative for the villagers said Monday.
Korm Phen, a representative for villagers living in Dan Tong district’s La’ang village and Kampot district’s Tvea Thmei village, said the families had accepted $5,500 per hectare from Sinohydro Corporation, which is clearing rock from the mountain in order to build a hydroelectric dam; the villagers could receive more money if the quarry work continues beyond the four-year contract signed by the company and villagers, she said.
When work at the quarry began in late 2007, villagers demanded about $10,000 per hectare, but the company refused and the villagers in protest have blocked local roads leading to the site four times since early November.
“They promised to work with us to solve our problems after we blocked the road, but it wasn’t until March 21 that they gave us the compensation,” Korm Phen said, adding that villagers still demanded more but were afraid to reject the compensation because they thought they might end up with nothing.
“They told us that if we don’t agree with the offer, we can refuse, but we are afraid we would not get another offer,” she said.
Villagers have complained since early January that the company has been detonating explosives about twice a day, sending rock fragments as far as 300 meters and damaging nearby homes and farms. Korm Phen said she owns about 1.5 hectares of land affected by the quarry, and that she and other villagers would have to relocate during the project.
Ngeth Soseng, provincial coordinator for local rights group Licadho, said she was pleased the company had offered the compensation, even if it was much less than the villagers demanded.
“I think it is good that officials tried to resolve the problems with the villagers by offering compensation,” she said. “We want all authorities and companies to solve problems peacefully like in this case.”
Kampot provincial Governor Khoy Khun Hour said the agreement covered about 18 hectares of land between the 25 families. He said he expected work at the quarry to be finished within two years, and said villagers were in no danger of losing their land.
“They should not worry; I am a witness to this agreement,” he said.
Officials with Sinohydro Corporation could not be reached for comment Monday.
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