Now Homeless, Villagers Remain in Bokor Park

After having their homes de­stroyed during Monday and Tues­day’s violent forced eviction by po­lice and military forces, approximately 300 families are still camping out on recently reclaimed state-owned land in Kampot province’s Chhuk district, rights workers and villagers said.

Police, military police and soldiers emptied and burned scores of small wooden houses in Taken com­mune, injuring seven villagers.

Try Chhoun, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said Thurs­day the villagers are refusing to leave the land, which authorities claim is in Bokor National Park.

“People are still there, they are waiting for a solution from the government,” Try Chhoun said.

“They have no tents, it is difficult, and they have no shelter and food,” she said, adding that RCAF Bri­gade 31 had set up two checkpoints on roads leading into the land.

Villager Danh Ry, who moved onto the disputed land 14 months ago, said villagers would fight to stay on the land.

“They will struggle; if they die on the land, they will do it,” Danh Ry said. “Even if we return back to our provinces, there is no hope. We left [there] empty-handed,” he said.

Danh Ry said environmental officials told villagers Thursday they have three days to leave the land or face another beating from soldiers.

Chheng Sophors, an investigator for local rights group Licadho, said $1,000 in donations of rice, noodles and canned fish were distributed Thursday to the evicted villagers.

“They are all real poor villagers,” Chheng Sophors said. “They are sleeping under the trees and on the burnt homes to guard the land,” he said, adding that the government should find a place for them.

Kampot Provincial Governor Khoy Khun Hour on Thursday de­clined to say what, if any, assistance the government would give to the newly homeless villagers, referring the questions to Forestry Admin­is­tration Chief Ty Sokun.

“Authorities will take measures in accordance with the law,” Ty Sokun said. “Social land concession will be given to villagers who actually don’t have land—not to anarchic individuals who have careers as land grabbing,” he said.

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