Leaders of a group of 250 families forcibly evicted in Poipet were in hiding Thursday, as commune officials and rights groups appealed to provincial authorities to assist the hundreds of people left homeless after Tuesday’s eviction.
In the wake of the court-ordered eviction—the resolution to a 5-year-old dispute over five hectares of land owned by Minister of Rural Development Lu Laysreng—village representatives said they were hiding in the homes of friends and relatives, fearing arrest for their part in a Tuesday protest against police.
Authorities arrested Var Oeun, a village representative, while he set up a loudspeaker system during the protest. On Wednesday, villagers said they did not know his whereabouts.
“I don’t know where my brother is,” said Var Sam On, elder brother Var Oeun. “I am worried for my security, and for the five other representatives. I do not go out in public because I was told we would be arrested.”
Var Oeun was sent to Banteay Meanchey provincial court, O’Chrou district police chief Nuth Ly said. “I do not know what he was doing, but he was arrested according to the court’s warrant,” he added.
By Thursday, about 70 percent of the villagers’ houses had been destroyed. Poipet commune officials and representatives of about 30 aid organizations met Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss ways to assist the displaced residents, commune chief Hay Nem Heng said.
“We, on behalf of the Poipet commune, appealed to the provincial governor, Banteay Meanchey court and legislative institutions to temporarily postpone the court’s verdict, because people have no refuge from the rain, no food and their health is not good,” Hay Nem Heng said.
Lu Laysreng did not answer repeated calls for comment Thursday.