Seven years after 175 farming families were violently evicted from their homes in Siem Reap province’s Chi Kreng district, representatives of the community on Tuesday vowed to protest at the provincial hall if they did not receive word of replacement land before the Khmer New Year holiday next month.
The district governor, however, said he had already formed a committee to settle the dispute, and was in the process of finding land to give them.
On March 22, 2009, about 100 police and military police officers opened fire on some 300 villagers in Chi Kreng in what locals said was an attempt by district and provincial authorities to grab 475 hectares of their land in order to sell it.
Four farmers were shot and injured, and nine others were convicted of being part of an illegal armed force and handed three-year jail terms suspended to time served in 2010. No police or military police were ever arrested over the shootings.
On Tuesday, some of the evictees held a Buddhist ceremony to mark the anniversary. Yi Savong, a community representative, declared their intention to protest if they don’t get new land.
“We will protest at the Siem Reap Provincial Hall again before Khmer New Year if we don’t get news from authorities about the size and location of our land,” she said, adding that the evictees had been promised new land since 2010.
“It is very unjust for the people because the authorities accused us of attacking them with axes and machetes, yet the authorities shot people and seriously injured them but the court did not find justice for us,” Ms. Savong said.
District governor Pov Bunthoeun said about three or four months ago provincial governor Khim Bunsong ordered him to create a committee to find a solution for the families.
He said his committee had concluded that only 125 of the 175 families deserved new land and that the plots would likely be located in Pongro Loeu and Khvav communes.
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