The Ministry of Land Management says it has stopped trying to appease a group of 253 families in Preah Vihear province that are trying to reclaim land from which they were evicted in 2011, though the families say they won’t stop asking.
In a letter to the families dated August 16 and released on Tuesday, the ministry says 1,852 families were evicted from state land under the jurisdiction of the National Authority for Preah Vihear, which manages the Angkor-era Preah Vihear temple and the area around it.
The letter, signed by Secretary of State Lim Van, says most of the evicted families happily accepted the land and houses the government provided them at a resettlement site, and the families seeking their old land should do the same.
“The Ministry of Land Management has decided to stop finding a solution for all of you today and to allow the National Authority for Preah Vihear to manage and maintain the area as public property,” the letter says.
E Bunthoeun, who heads the ministry’s secretariat, declined to elaborate on the decision on Tuesday.
Phan Thoeun, a representative for the 253 families, said they have received the letter, but would not stop seeking the ministry’s help.
“The people do not agree with the Land Management Ministry’s decision because we went to live there a long time ago,” he said, adding that the group planned to petition the ministry in Phnom Penh next week.
Mr. Thoeun said the families moved to the disputed site in 1999 and have family books and letters of proof from local officials. He said they want to return because the farmland they have been given at the resettlement site is less than what they had.
The dispute has been ongoing since 2010, when CPP lawmaker Suos Yara allegedly demanded 500 square meters from the villagers. Representatives claim that when the villagers refused, they were evicted from their land on the pretense that they were squatting on a heritage site.