Hundreds Pushed Off Rubber Plantation in M’kiri

Police and soldiers in Mondolkiri province on Monday demolished at least 60 shelters built by families who recently moved onto land belonging to a Vietnamese rubber company, and arrested a couple for allegedly having illegally sold some of those families’ plots.

Van Saruon, whose shelter was among those razed Monday, said his was one of about 500 landless families from various provinces who came to settle in the area in 2012. He said they were evicted later that year, but that about 400 of them returned a few weeks ago and built about 100 shelters.

On Monday, he said, “more than 100 police from the province and district came to clear the homes. They forced the people off the land, which the authorities claim belongs to a Vietnamese company for a rubber plantation.”

Mr. Saruon conceded that the families had never received permission to occupy the land, but insisted that the government should still favor the needs of poor, landless Cambodians over foreign business interests.

He said they had repeatedly asked authorities for a social land concession but never received a reply.

Provincial police chief Nhem Vanny said the land belonged to the Pacific Rubber Company. He said police and soldiers had no choice but to demolish their shelters, which he claimed numbered about 60. Mr. Vanny said a social land concession for them was still possible, however.

“The authorities will think about a social land concession for them if they are truly poor families and they do not have land for building a house, but these people are new families from other provinces looking for land and were duped by the ringleaders,” he said.

Mr. Vanny said these ringleaders were Rith Vanny and her husband Yun Yim, whom they arrested at the site Monday for allegedly having illegally sold families land at $500 per plot back in 2012.

He said the couple had fooled dozens of people and that a warrant for their arrest had been outstanding for the past two years.

Mr. Saruon, whose shelter was destroyed Monday, denied the allegations against the couple and dismissed it as an excuse to push them all off the land.

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