More than 100 wooden houses were torched during a forced eviction in Oddar Meanchey province’s Anlong Veng district yesterday, deputy district governor Nhem En said. “We moved and burned more than 100 houses among 200 houses [located in the area].
“We had to move them out and burn their houses, otherwise the houses would still be on the land that the authorities had ordered them to move from,” said Mr En, who is better known for his photographic skills as a Khmer Rouge-era guard at the S-21 prison where he worked under camp commandant Duch photographing thousands of inmates before and during their torture and after their execution.
Evicted resident Som Thoeun, 42, claimed yesterday that authorities gave no warning of the torching, which destroyed 103 small homes that had been built over several years.
Mr Thoeun said he and others had bought the land from civil servant colleagues of Mr En based at the provincial department of the environment in Anlong Veng town.
Mr En said the villagers were living in an “environment protection and conservation area,” and the community had not been recognized by his office as a village.
Mr En confirmed that local officials had conspired to sell the state-owned land to the villagers, but he also laid the blame with the villagers for moving from other provinces to the land without official authorization.
The eviction was carried out on the instructions of the Siem Reap Provincial Court, said Srey Naren, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, who described the torching and forced eviction as a “cruel” operation, which had left more than 100 families landless and without a roof over their heads.