Kandal province villagers involved in a long-running land dispute said yesterday they have been threatened with eviction, despite court verdicts that upheld their complaint against Heng Development Company for seeking to encroach on their land.
“Although Kandal Provincial Court’s judgments on Oct 2, 2006, and Feb 26, 2007, gave the land rights of occupation and living for the 292 families legally in three communes…the company has been rejecting the court’s judgments and disrespecting the legal system,” Ty Vanny, a 32-year-old villager in Takhmao district’s Prek Hor commune, said at a press conference held at rights group Adhoc’s head office in Phnom Penh.
“We appeal to the government and the courts: ‘Please turn your faces to help our people,’ as we have no power,” he added.
A representative for the villagers said the firm has given them a final deadline of the end of next month’s Pchum Ben festival to vacate their homes and farmland, failing which the company has said it would bulldoze their pagoda.
The owner of Heng Development Company, Seng Chanheng, said that the pagoda was built on land that it owned, and that the monks who live there had volunteered to leave after they were offered compensation. Ms Chanheng would not comment further on the land dispute with the villagers, saying she did not have the relevant documents at hand.
Kandal provincial governor Chhun Sirun said that he did not think the company would go through with its threats.
“I don’t believe the company dares to bulldoze the Wat compound, if Kandal Provincial Court gave verdict to the people,” he said.
“When the villagers tried to struggle and stand up to protest our lands and houses, there were armed forces the Heng Development Company rented to shoot us,” villager Ly Seiha, 30, recalled at the press conference.
Military police helping the company clear a 300-hectare swath of land in the Kandal Stung district communes of Kandork and Ampov Prey allegedly shot and wounded two protesting villagers, including Mr Seiha, in Jan 2009. According to Pen Makara, Adhoc monitor for Kandal province, no arrests were made in this case.