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.