About 50 villagers in Mondolkiri province’s Pech Chhreada district turned out on Sunday to protest against a plan by the provincial authorities to move them off the land where they live, a witness said Monday.
The demonstrators—Khmer, Cham and men from the Phnong ethnic minority group—carried knives, sticks and placards protesting against a plan to evict them from their homes alongside a road running through Pou Chrey village, said Doung Vannara, a villager who witnessed the protest.
No authorities attended the protest, which did not become violent, Doung Vannara said.
An NGO official who asked not to be identified said the protesters have thumbprinted a petition claiming they have lived there for years and do not wish to be removed from the area.
Thou Sonn, Mondolkiri governor, said he had set Sunday as the last day that the 50 families would be allowed to stay along the roadside, which he said needs to be cleared as elephants and tigers migrate across the road from Phnom Prich wildlife sanctuary to a protected area in the district.
“If people live in the area, it affects the migration of the elephants, and a conflict between the beasts and human beings will happen,” he said.
He added that villagers whose families have lived in the area for generations will be allowed to stay.
But the 50 families arrived between 2003 and 2004 and have no right to live there, he said.
“We will let them stay for a while before the authorities take appropriate action to help them leave,” he said.
Teak Seng, country director of the World Wide Fund for Nature, welcomed Thou Sonn’s orders and said the evictions would help stop illegal logging and land encroachment in the area.
He added that since a new road was built in the area, new people have been cutting back the forest and living there illegally.
But he said ethnic minority families who have been there for many years should not be moved.