Opposition Voters in Preah Vihear Claim Threat of Eviction

Locals and rights groups on Wednesday said dozens of farmers in a village in Preah Vihear province have been singled out for eviction after supporting the opposition CNRP in last month’s vote, a claim their village chief denied.

Residents of Choam Ksan district’s Kom Prak village said their village chief has threatened them with eviction. Though all of the roughly 200 families in the village lack titles to their homes and small farms, residents said village chief Chan Heng has singled out only 44 families that he suspected of voting for the CNRP.

Men Samorn, who voted for the CNRP, said Mr. Heng addressed the 44 families the day after the election, by which time the CPP had already issued its own unofficial results claiming it had lost 22 of its 90 National Assembly seats.

“He said all these villagers should prepare to move out of their houses and off their land because they live in a government controlled area and use roads built by the CPP but they voted for the CNRP,” she said.

Ms. Samorn said she moved to the village five years ago and has been cultivating a 5-hectare plot of rice and green beans since then. And while none of the villagers have titles, she said all of them paid hundreds of dollars for the land.

“I feel intimidated and very worried because he threatened to confiscate my family’s land,” she said.

Pich Vanny, who also voted for the CNRP, claimed that the village chief even threatened them with arrest and said he believed village officials were now keeping a close watch over the suspect families.

“I’m so worried because authorities have bad plans for opposition supporters. They want to find all the families that support the CNRP and evict us,” he said.

Mr. Heng denied the allegations.

The village chief said he used a megaphone set up at the primary school and the local pagoda the day after the election only to urge the families, CPP and CNRP supporters alike, to work together.

“I just educated the people to work together to bring peace to the country and to not be partisan,” he said. “I want to deny the information about the [threat of] evictions because we have no plan to evict the people of this village.”

“We knew that the 44 families voted for the CNRP because they spoke publicly in support of the party,” Mr. Heng added.

Lor Chan, provincial coordinator for human rights group Adhoc, said his group was investigating the case.

Adhoc’s head of human rights and legal aid, Ny Chakrya, said his staff was also looking into eviction threats against opposition supporters in Kandal and Siem Reap provinces but had no details.

According to the NEC’s preliminary results, the CPP lost parliamentary seats in both provinces.

And with political tensions rising as the government beefs up its military and police forces in Phnom Penh to stave off the opposition’s threats of mass protests unless the CPP concedes the election, Mr. Chakrya said he expected reports to keep coming.

But unlike past elections, he said the preliminary results—which show a loss of 22 seats for the CPP—should convince the ruling party that its threats are not effective.

“The CPP must change,” he said. “They cannot use the old strategy…because now the CNRP wins more villages, more communes [across] the whole country.”

Vann Sophath, a land reform project coordinator at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, urged the government to hold off on settling the country’s myriad land disputes until it has settled the present election dispute.

“These cases exhibit a willful disregard on the part of the interim government for the promises made by all parties in the run-up to the July elections to halt forced evictions and resolve land conflicts,” he said. “During this tense political standoff, it is of paramount importance that local authorities safeguard citizen’s rights and ensure that land disputes are stalled until stability is restored.”

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