Preah Vihear Families Ordered to Make Way for Bulldozers

Preah Vihear deputy governor Kan Vuthy on Tuesday told 50 representatives of families from Rovieng district involved in a land dispute with authorities that despite their protests, the land they live on will be cleared today to make way for a social land concession, an official said.

Last week, about 100 families twice prevented bulldozers from clearing land near their homes in Romany commune’s O’Pur village following an October 10 eviction letter ordering them to leave the area. The land is adjacent to a huge rubber plantation owned by businessman Try Pheap, whose employees and vehicles are being used to clear it.

“The deputy [provincial] governor told the families not to prevent authorities from clearing the land [today] as they are demarcating a social land concession for [212] ethnic Kuoy minority families,” said district governor Ea Saro, who was present at the meeting.

Mr. Saro also challenged the families resisting eviction—who say they moved to the area from various provinces in 2010 with permission from local authorities—to produce documents proving they legally occupy the land.

“We will not use force against those people if they protest to­morrow when we start clearing the land, but we will try to explain to them again to make them un­derstand,” he said.

The 100 families have been offered new land about 500 meters away, but a village representative said that it is deep inside a forested area far from the main road where they sell their goods.

“We do not agree to this move and we intend to protest again [today] if the authorities try to clear the land,” said Seak Sokha, 52.

Mr. Saro, the district governor, said on Sunday that the land currently being cleared by Try Pheap’s firm is about 1 km outside the proposed social concession.

Lor Chan, a provincial coordinator for human rights group Adhoc, said on Monday that he believes Mr. Pheap may be clearing the land to expand his rubber plantation.

“In our experience, when local authorities request social land concessions, they give land to several families and the rest of the land they will use to sell,” he said.

“I cannot comment now [for certain] on the land next to [Try Pheap’s] company…but I have little hope that ethnic minority families will occupy all of the social land concession.

“The land is highly valued as it is located adjacent to National Road 62,” he said, referring to the recently completed 128-km China-funded highway built to improve poor infrastructure in the province, which is said to be hampering companies’ attempts to fully exploit the area’s resources.

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