A three-year-old land dispute between residents and authorities in Pailin municipality’s Sala Krau district ended Saturday with soldiers bulldozing 48 homes to make room for a road expansion project, rights workers and witnesses said Sunday.
“The district authorities ordered soldiers to destroy people’s property to enlarge a road,” said San Chan Chea, the Pailin representative for rights group Adhoc.
Following a complaint filed by residents at both the Interior Ministry and the office of Prime Minister Hun Sen in 2002, Pailin authorities were ordered to find a mutually acceptable solution, San Chan Chea said.
Pailin police Commissioner Ley Chan Chhey said the properties demolished were not houses but kiosks belonging to vendors. He said the owners had been asked to move more than one month ago but had refused to cooperate.
Ley Chan Chhey also said that the expanded road would provide access to a new village created by Pailin Governor Y Chhean to provide housing for 500 families.
“The authorities displace people arbitrarily and disrespected Hun Sen and the Interior Ministry’s orders,” said Heng Ty, a spokesman for the residents.
Heng Ty also accused the governor of reneging on a promise he made prior to the last commune election to allow residents to relocate near his own land.
Y Chhean could not be reached for comment Monday. Ley Chan Chhey denied that Y Chhean ever made the promise.