Land earmarked for 602 displaced families evicted at gunpoint from their homes in Kompong Thom province’s Kraya commune last year has become the subject of a separate land dispute affecting more than 150 other families, according to villagers, officials and a rights worker.
Poe Oumoete, provincial monitor for rights group Licadho, said yesterday that his organization received a complaint from 160 families on Dec 3, accusing Santuk district authorities of illegally clearing their farmland and destroying their crops in Kraya commune.
Mr Oumoete said he believed the land in question would eventually be allocated to families who were forcibly evicted from their own land in Kraya commune in Dec 2009 to make way for the development of a rubber plantation by Vietnamese firm Tan Bien-Kompong Thom Rubber Development Company.
“That land is now in dispute with other villagers,” he said, adding that the newly affected villagers claimed they should be granted land titles to their land, as they had lived there since the 1990s.
After a year of promising to provide them with land, Kompong Thom province deputy governor Uch Sam On confirmed Monday that 77 Kraya commune families displaced after last year’s eviction-those with a disabled family member-would receive a 1-hectare plot of farmland next week.
Mr Sam On said the authorities had found enough land for all 600 families, but that there would be a further delay in allocating new plots as some of the land still needed to be confiscated from around 200 other families from Kraya commune.
Santuk district governor Pich Sophea said yesterday the land to be issued to the 77 families next week had been expropriated from more than 60 families in Thma Samleang village.
Mr Sophea admitted that authorities had cleared some villagers’ farmland to re-allocate to last year’s evicted families. He said the provincial authorities had taken the land because the villagers had illegally cleared it for themselves. “We will take part of their land and allow them to keep some of their land,” he said.
“We did not knock down their houses. It just affects their farms and we tried to do it away from their crops,” he said of the land clearing.
Neth Sao, 57, a representative of the families in Thma Samleang village, said yesterday that so far roughly 60 families had been affected by the land clearing and that more than 100 more families believed they would also lose land.
“When they continue to clear land, it will affect more than 160 families’ land [in total],” Mr Sao said. “I think that their actions are not right. They should not take villagers’ land to hand to other villagers.”