>Cambodian senator is no stranger to controversy

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STAFF REPORTERS

Ly Yong Phat (pictured), the businessman behind the major developments planned on Koh Kong, is no stranger to controversy having been criticised by several human rights agencies for forcibly removing villagers from their land in 2006.

Also known as Phat Suphapha, he is a senator in the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and one of the wealthiest men in Cambodia who counts many of the country’s most powerful people as his close associates.

Mr Phat came under fire from the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) for the forced eviction of 250 families in the Chi Khor Leu commune in Sre Ambel district of Koh Kong province on Sept 19, 2006.

According to the AHRC report, military police were involved in the eviction, destroying the villagers’ crops and bulldozing houses. Seven people were injured in the confrontations, including two villagers who suffered bullet wounds.

The Cambodian government granted Mr Phat’s Agriculture Duty Free-Shop Development Company two 10,000-hectare concessions in the commune, which the villagers had been living in since 1979, the report said.

Human Rights Watch, Global Witness, FORUM-ASIA, the Asian Human Rights Commission and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) issued a joint statement in Oct 2006 condemning the evictions.

He offered compensation of $50 per hectare when human rights lawyers were asking for a fair market value of $500-$1,000 per hectare, human rights workers later discovered.

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