P Vihear Villagers Complain of Intimidation by General’s NGO

Staff of a local NGO in Preah Vihear province’s Choam Ksan district threatened seven families with violence last week unless they give up their land to the group, local villagers alleged yesterday.

The complaints are the latest in a string of accusations by villagers and human rights workers who allege extortion, beatings and rape by staff of the Organization for Research and Curbing Drugs and AIDS.

This NGO, run by RCAF Brigadier General Pen Lim, has been allowed by the government to run a 556-hectare social land concession in Choam Ksan district’s Kantuot commune since 2007.

Villager Khim Khon said the NGO’s staff had been intimidating her family and six other families in the area since early October in order to force them to leave.

“They threatened to burn my house if I don’t move it away,” she said, adding that on Sunday night “about ten people came to my house and threatened to shoot into my house. I am very scared but I don’t where I can go.”

Ms Khon said her family, like most people in the area, had came to the concession area in 2008 to take up the general’s offer of free farmland, but after she arrived she was required to pay $2,500 for a 30-by-100 meter plot.

Now, she said, the NGO had told the families they had to leave this land. “They told me the land was sold to someone else.”

Kantuot commune chief Moul Mab confirmed the general wanted to remove the families because they filed complaints against his NGO.

“[He] called me Sunday to find new land for the families” outside the concession area, Mr Mab said. “I think Mr Pen Lim doesn’t want them to live in the area because they filed a complaint against him and his NGO.”

Villagers and rights groups have asked authorities to lift the NGO’s control of the area and filed a complaint with Preah Vihear Provincial Court accusing the NGO of severe abuses.

The court however, accepted a complaint from the NGO accusing villagers of incitement, disinformation and forgery. Last month it charged three villagers for allegedly falsifying thumbprints, two of whom still remain in detention.



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