The National Assembly has ordered the Phnom Penh Municipality to investigate and resolve a land dispute that has seen 545 families forcibly evicted from homes on disputed land in Russei Keo district’s Phnom Penh Thmei commune.
The letter, dated Tuesday and signed by the Assembly’s first deputy president, Heng Samrin, said the Assembly commission for protection of human rights had received complaints from the villagers accusing district officials of destroying their homes.
“Therefore, we would like to send the complaint to the municipality to conduct an investigation and solve the matter,” Heng Samrin wrote.
Mam Bun Neang, Phnom Penh first deputy governor, said he had not seen the letter but added that the case was under investigation.
District officials began clearing the community on Friday. Homes were bulldozed as armed officials looked on, after the Council of Ministers awarded titles for the land to nine families.
The workers destroyed about half the homes and returned Tuesday to finish the job.
Villagers protested in front of the National Assembly over the weekend and submitted complaints to the Prime Minister’s office and Interior Ministry.
The protests continued in front of City Hall on Wednesday.
They said armed military police and soldiers had been deployed to protect trucks that were carrying soil to fill flooded fields that the villagers say are theirs.
“None of the villagers dares stop them from transporting soil to the fields,” said a villager who identified himself as Dara.
Another villager who called himself Vannara said the soil was being used to level the land so it could be sold for development.
“Then villagers will become homeless, while those officials are going to share the profits with each other,” Vannara said.
Keo Neam, who is representing the nine families, said the soil was needed to fill holes dug by the villagers, who she has accused of illegally grabbing the land.