There could be clashes between villagers and government inspectors trying to enforce a new law from today that bans backyard poultry farming, community leaders warned yesterday. Members of the Heung Yee Kuk and district councils said villagers were particularly angry at the government's refusal to compensate them for the loss of their birds. So far only 696 poultry, including 520 chickens, have been surrendered in the precaution against bird flu, but a census last year estimated about 1,850 households kept 3,600 ducks and 9,200 chickens. Chan Yin-lun, chairman of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department staff association, said frontline workers had been told to report to senior staff if they encountered problems. 'Even though we have experience in culling chickens since 1997, the situation is quite different as the villagers are not being compensated for their losses,' he said. The inspection teams will be able to seek a court order to search private premises if families refuse to surrender their live poultry. Heung Yee Kuk member Lau Wan-hei, a Sai Kung district councillor, said many villagers resented the 'coercive' manner adopted by the government. 'The Heung Yee Kuk was never consulted before the government passed the law.' He said villagers would be treated like criminals if court orders were used to search homes. 'That is completely unnecessary. This may give rise to some disputes.' Fellow kuk member Lau Ying-wo, a North District councillor, warned: 'We can't tell what may happen. But clashes are possible if the families are forced to surrender their live poultry without compensation.' Democrat Fred Li Wah-ming, chairman of the Legislative Council's food safety and environmental hygiene panel, believed the operation would be carried out smoothly because both sides understood the health concerns.