The 19 families in Pailin province who were told by police and military police on Saturday to vacate their land filed a complaint with Adhoc on Monday, the provincial coordinator for the NGO said.
Authorities told the families to move on Saturday from the 95-hectares they have farmed since 1999, claiming that the land on which the villagers were cultivating crops was in fact state-owned. Pailin Governor Y Chhien referred on Sunday to the plot as “my land” before correcting himself to say that it was partly state-owned and partly owned by a company.
Prak Sophima, Adhoc’s provincial coordinator in Pailin, said the 19 families filed a complaint with her office requesting help to stave off eviction.
“We are now helping the complainants to build a complaint for the affected families, and we have instructed them to then send this document to provincial land management [department] and provincial hall office,” Ms. Sophima said.
Orm Sam Ath, 44, who claims five hectares of the farmland and is one of the three complainants, said he had little hope for success.
“I filed the complaint with Adhoc to ask for help because we are hopeless and do not believe the authorities as they never have found a solution for us…[though] we’ve filed many complaints,” she said.
Sala Krao commune deputy chief Vor Roum said he had received orders to forcibly clear the families from the land in two weeks.
“His Excellency the governor ordered me this afternoon to remove the people from the land before March 15. If they’re not gone, provincial authorities will come to take action,” Mr. Roum said. “If they refuse to relocate, the authorities will arrest them as protest masters.”
“I have seen that Mr. Y Chhien has cleared the land, but I don’t know exactly who owns it,” he explained.
Koeut Sothea, who serves as deputy governor for Pailin, confirmed that the farmland under dispute is claimed by Mr. Chhien.
“It is true that the land belongs to His Excellency the governor, as he planted cassava there a long time ago,” Mr. Sothea said.
Mr. Sothea declined to comment when asked about a claim leveled by Adhoc on Sunday that the land is in fact owned by Mr. Chhien’s wife, Ban Sreymom, who also serves as a CPP lawmaker.