Bunong Living on Land Concession Evicted

An indigenous Bunong minority community in Mondolkiri province’s Keo Seima district on Wednesday filed a complaint claiming that authorities had destroyed their homes, but authorities allege that the villagers are living on land owned by a private company.

Villagers claim that since November, 37 homes in Srechhouk Kiri commune have been demolished, some of them burned to the ground, by authorities including Forestry Administration representatives and military police, but district governor Sun Vanvuth claims the villagers had been given plenty of notice to leave before authorities moved in.

“The people were living illegally and disorderly on a special economic land concession belonging to a private company, as agreed by the government,” Mr. Vanvuth said, declining to name the company. “These people had been told many times that they needed to move out of that land, and their homes are small and easy to move, but they ignored [the orders],” he said, denying that authorities had burned any of the villagers’ homes.

Kol Heal, a community representative for the 250 families who have lived on the site since 2010, said that a complaint filed with the Mondolkiri Provincial Court was rejected, and insisted that authorities had been heavy-handed in the attempted eviction.

“We sent the complaint to the court, but they rejected it because it was unclear about the perpetrator,” said community representative Kol Heal. “But the provincial authority has accepted the complaint.”

The villagers’ complaint states: “The villagers’ houses were burned and destroyed by the authorities, who alleged that we had settled illegally in a sanctuary.”

“We would like the various authorities to compensate us for damages [caused across] three villages, and we call for provincial authorities to provide social economic land concessions for each family, and we will not move until they solve this problem,” it continues.

Em Sopheak, coordinator at the Community Legal Education Center in Mondolkiri, said the villagers had been evicted because they were living on land that had been sold to a private Vietnamese rubber firm and a cassava plantation.

“The zone has become a special economic land concession of the Vietnamese company Binh Phuoc II and Sovan Reachsey Company,” Mr. Sopheak said.

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