Families Evicted in R’kiri Land Dispute

Ratanakkiri Provincial Court yesterday sent more than 50 police and military police to evict nine families involved in a dispute over a plot of land in central Banlung City.

Prosecutor Ros Saram, who led the forces, confirmed that the families’ houses were torn down by Supreme Court order. The eviction was postponed in October after Justice Minister Ang Vong Vattana ordered an investigation into the case.

Mr Saram said a large force was necessary because authorities feared the evictees would react with violence.

“We brought a water truck with us, fearing those families could set fire to our vehicles’ tires to stop us from implementing the Supreme Court order,” he said.

In early October, the Supreme Court ruled that Kuy Yan owned the contested 25-meter-by-65-meter plot, despite the fact that her husband insisted that he gave it to his brother years ago to settle a debt. According to the brothers, they did not document the transaction because they were family.

Ms Yan alleged that her brother-in-law, Doeurn Chan, had actually grabbed the land, divided it, and sold it to nine families.

On Oct 13, the provincial court attempted to carry out the eviction order but successfully removed just one resident, Mr Chan.

Two days later Ms Yan’s husband, Suong Piseth, the former director of the provincial department of public works, wrote to the Justice Ministry and requested a delay in the eviction, claiming that he was still the legal owner of the land and was in the process of divorcing his wife.

However, ultimately the ministry allowed the eviction to proceed.

“After the Ministry of Justice conducted inspections and thoroughly reviewed the judicial basis [of the decision], the complaint made by Mr Piseth did not have sufficient proof of his legal ownership of the land,” prosecutor Mr Saram said.

Evicted families yesterday called the verdict unjust.

“Because that lady is rich, that’s why she won and took our land from us,” said Moeun Run, 30, who said he had purchased his land in early 2010 for $4,000.

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