Police, Teachers Tear Down Squatter Houses

Dozens of police officers, aided by teachers from a Phnom Penh high school, tore down 10 squatter houses Monday on a plot of land claimed by the high school.

The police and teachers flooded onto a hectare of land in Toul Rokar village on the road to Takhmau Monday morning, ordered the families from their homes, then dismantled the small buildings. The wood was put on trucks and hauled away.

“They come to destroy our house like robbers,” 61-year-old Trou Sambath yelled as her house was torn down. She said she and her family have nowhere to live now that they have been ordered off the land.

The families said the authorities tore down the houses without showing any order from the court or from municipal officials.

El Lim Hel, chief of Meanchey district police, said Toul Tom­pong High School has owned the hectare of land since 1987 and that the squatters did not have permission to be living there. “We came here to remove houses because these people were illegally living on the school’s land,” he said.

Teachers said the 10 families moved onto the land in recent months. The families, however, claim they had been living there for years. There are no other structures on the plot of land.

When villagers demanded that the police and teachers show them the school’s proof of ownership, they were referred to Angre Krom commune authorities.

Police and teachers were working Monday to erect a fence around the property to keep people from settling on the land.

Because of Cambodia’s vague land law, proving ownership can be cumbersome. Many landowners do not have proper documentation for their land, often times making it difficult to settle land disputes.

Government officials say a new proposed land law now at the Council of Ministers will ease the problems of land disputes and land grabs.

 

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