Some 600 evicted families in Kompong Thom province’s Santuk district worry they will miss this year’s rainy season unless the government makes good on its promise of compensatory farmland soon.
The 602 families were forced to move to a forested relocation site after nearly 200 armed security personnel descended on Kraya commune’s Banteay Ra’Ngeang community on Dec 8 to evict them from their farms. Authorities said the families—most of them disabled RCAF veterans-had to vacate the 8,100—hectare area to make way for a Vietnamese rubber company, Tin Bien.
Officials promised a hectare of farmland per family as compensation. More than eight months on, those families are still waiting.
“They promised and promised to give us the land, but so far they have not offered it to us,” said Prum Sarath, one of the evictees. “Next year we will have no food to eat because this year we don’t have land to plant crops. Our condition will get worse and worse.”
Without donations or the chance to make money off their crops, he said the families are running short of food already, relying on day labor when they can and gathering bamboo shoots to trade for rice.
Deputy provincial governor Uch Sam On said the land was on its way, though authorities would need more time to finish converting it from state public land to state private land. And while the Agriculture Ministry had approved the request, he said, ministry officials still had to visit the area to study the proposed coordinates.
“We are waiting on the Agriculture Ministry to work with us and we are trying to offer [the farmers] the land this year,” he said. “Their concern is our concern.”
Mr Sam On said plans were also under way to bring the villagers rice and seeds for planting and that work crews were building wells, classrooms and health facilities for the community. A senior monitor for rights group Licadho, however, criticized authorities for not preparing the site before relocating the families.
“The provincial authorities should have prepared the land before they moved the villagers there. Why do they do it in this order?” said Am Sam Ath.
Chang Tong Yves, secretary of state at the Ministry of Agriculture, and Kith Seng, under-secretary of state at the ministry, said yesterday they had no knowledge of the province’s request for farmland for the families.