The government’s Human Rights Commission sent a letter to the Sihanoukville governor on Thursday asking the official to allow relocated people to return to a plot of state land they had made home.
Of the more than 100 people once living on the disputed plot in Sangkat 3 commune, Khan Mittapheap district, 11 families have kept their homes.
After ordering the people off the state land, Sihanoukville Governor Say Hak sent a bulldozer there to level houses and gardens on Nov 28.
Those 11 families are now staying with relatives, as police have been ordered to keep them off the land.
“We have already sent a letter to the governor of Sihanoukville and some other officials who are involved in the case,” said Om Yentieng, who sits on the commission and advises Prime Minister Hun Sen on human rights. “If they want to [relocate the people], they should do it through the law. Regardless of whether they stop [the forced relocation], we will send this case to court.”
“I don’t understand. The land belongs to the state, and when the state takes it back, we are wrong,” Say Hak said Monday. “I accept that I did [what the commission alleged], but this is what I have the right to do, and I did this for the nation, not for myself.”
Say Hak said he gave the squatters an eviction notice before sending in the bulldozer, and that he had done so at the request of three different ministries.
Citing squatters’ rights, Cheap Sotheary, the director of Adhoc in Sihanoukville, said “Judging by our investigation, we believe that those people, the 11 families, lived on the land seven years because we saw their jackfruit tree, which is seven years old.”
Say Hak said that the families had no documents to prove the length of their residence on the land, and that they had never informed any officials about their intent to live there.