Police Demolish Shelters of Kratie Families for Second Time

Police in Kratie province on Wednesday demolished the makeshift tents of about 300 families accused of squatting on public land inside a conservation area, two weeks after they forced many of the same families out of the area.

Some of the families say they have lived on the land for years, though they have no titles, and blocked National Road 76 for several hours on February 12 after police burned down dozens of their homes.

But just as the families came back, so did the police.

“We used more than 50 police and military police…to remove the villagers’ tents because they returned to stay after we removed them about two weeks ago,” said Keo Chea, the provincial military police chief.

“We removed the tents of those villagers because they’re living on state land, and this is the second time we have removed the tents because they returned,” he added.             “We have informed them many times to leave the land and not to clear the forest for themselves because this is a conservation area, but they do not listen to the authorities.”

Snuol district police chief Chan Sokim said about 100 tents were destroyed Wednesday.

Sin Nary, whose tent was removed, said the police came with chainsaws to cut down their tent poles and accused the government of stealing their land.

“I do not agree to leave the land because my family has been living here for more than 10 years,” she said.

Undeterred by the loss of shelter, Ms. Nary said she would still not leave the area and will continue to work her nearby cassava field.

Heng Phearak, an investigator for rights group Adhoc, said many of the families claim that they have been living on the land for a decade or more, but in fact moved there within the past three years.

Even so, he said a directive Prime Minister Hun Sen announced last year to furnish hundreds of thousands of families living on state land across the country with land titles, Directive 001, should afford them some protection.

“We think these people staying on the land violated the law because they cleared the land illegally, but if we look at Directive 001, they should be given a solution because they came to stay on the land before Directive 001,” he said.

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