Evicted Kompong Thom Families Still Waiting on Land, Short of Food

Two months after their forcible evictions to make way for a rubber company, around 600 families in Kompong Thom province’s Santuk district have yet to receive farmland promised as compensation, villagers and rights workers said yesterday.

At the relocation site, families have no source of income and suffer health problems such as malaria, they added.

Hien Soeurng, 37, said her family was forced to relocate to the 20-by-40-meter plot in a scrub forest area near Thma Samtieng village after 200 armed security personnel swept through Banteay Ra’Ngeang community in Kraya commune in early December to clear 8,100 hectares of land that was granted to the Vietnamese Tin Bien Company as an economic land concession.

Ms Soeurng said resettled villagers were concerned that provincial authorities would not distribute the one-hectare agriculture plot promised to each evicted household.

“We didn’t get the farmland yet, we only got a plot to live on,” she said, adding, “They promised to give us farmland…. I worry they won’t give it to us. If we don’t have land, how can we live?”

Ms Soeurng said families were now relying on their small savings and living off wild vegetables and rice distributions of around 25 kg that had been handed out by NGOs.

“Here we have no work to do…. Now we are using our savings and jewelry to buy food,” she said. “Sometimes we only eat rice with salt or prahok. Right now I have only 2 kilo of rice left and it will run out the day after tomorrow.”

Uch Sam On, Kompong Thom provincial deputy governor, said the families should not worry about the fact they had not received agricultural land, because authorities were “working on this issue” and would provide villagers with land “before the rainy season comes,” which is in about four months time.

He said authorities had dug 10 water wells so far and this year authorities plan to build a school, a pagoda and a health center.

Kompong Thom Provincial Court Prosecutor Pen Sarat said three of seven local villagers who had been detained since early November had been released on bail. The seven men were arrested for their role in a violent protest against security forces that had surrounded Banteay Ra’Ngeang village ahead of the villagers’ eviction.

 

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