Displaced Villagers Tell of Threats, Burning

More than 100 villagers forced to remove their huts from the hill above Sihanoukville’s Serendipity Beach on Feb 14 are living in tents pitched along roads or have rented cheap land nearby, villagers, po­lice and NGO officials said.

Sihanoukville Governor Say Hak justified the eviction Thurs­day, saying that the villagers had moved out voluntarily and without vio­lence after accepting $75 and an un­specified amount of rice from Oknha Kong Triv, whose Pa­ci­fic Group has laid claim to the area.

“The [villagers] built their houses on land to which they had no land title,” Say Hak said, adding that legal action would soon be taken to evict eight guest houses still operating in the area.

The guesthouses were also sched­uled for eviction last week but won a last-minute reprieve af­ter guesthouse owners—one of whom is Hun San, a brother of Prime Minister Hun Sen—suc­cessfully lobbied the prime min­­­­ister’s cabinet to halt their eviction until the Ministry of Land Ma­nag­ement surveys the area.

When asked where the villagers had moved to, Say Hak said, “They went back to where they came from.”

Buon Narith, representative of rights group Licadho, said Thurs­day that at least seven families had received no compensation. He disputed Say Hak’s des­­cription of a calm, orderly eviction and accused Si­­hanoukville authorities of heavy- handedness.

“One house was set alight, but I don’t know who by. More than 100 police and military police [turned up] with weapons. They threat­ened people. Most of the families [have found] land nearby to live. Some are living on the streets,” he said.

Villagers contacted concurred with Buon Narith’s report. “I did not get any money. Police burned my hut…. They threatened to shoot anyone who protested. I don’t know where to go,” said evictee Nhom Mom.

 

 

 

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