Kompong Thom provincial authorities yesterday handed over new farmland to 77 Kraya commune families with disabled family members who were forcibly evicted from their own land in Dec 2009 to make way for a Vietnamese rubber company’s plantation, an official said.
About 40 other Kraya commune families protested yesterday, however, confronting military police with claims that the land given to the 77 families was their own.
Kompong Thom deputy governor Uch Sam On said authorities had not confiscated other villagers’ land to give to the 77 families, only 57 of which were present to receive their land parcels yesterday.
“They have protested against us…but we did not confiscate their land,” Mr Sam On said, adding that if the villagers continued to cause trouble, they could face prosecution.
“We only recognize that this land belongs to the disabled families. If those [protesters] cause problems for the disabled families, they will face legal action,” he said.
On Dec 6, 2009, about 200 armed security personnel forced 602 families to move from Bateay Ra’ngeang village, a site earmarked for a rubber plantation developed by Vietnamese firm Tan Bien-Kompong Thom Rubber Development Company.
Following the eviction, provincial officials promised to compensate each family with a hectare of land prior to the 2010 rainy season, but later said they would start divvying up land in stages, starting with families with disabled family members.
Disabled villager Prum Saroth, 48, said he was very happy to receive a new plot of land, but said he was worried about the other families protesting against the land transfers.
“We are fearful of them, but believe they should respect the law,” Mr Saroth said.
Neth Sao, a representative of the protesting villagers, said yesterday that authorities had used military police and regular police officers to help measure out the plots of land.
“The authorities sent forces to measure our villagers’ land to offer to those disabled families,” Mr Sao said, adding that villagers had confronted the police officers, but peacefully.
Mr Sao said 60 families’ farmland had been encroached on to make way for the new plots of land.