Pursat Authorities Arrest Woman, Raze Homes

Authorities in Pursat province on Saturday arrested a woman attempting to stop them from bulldozing her home, then proceeded to demolish her residence and those of 11 other families locked in a land dispute with a company owned by timber and casino magnate Try Pheap, officials and residents said Sunday.

Villagers in Pursat province’s Veal Veng district have been feuding with Mr. Pheap since 2010, when his MDS Import Export Company was awarded a 2,250-hectare economic land concession in the district on which to build a new border crossing. They claim they have been farming the land for more than a decade.

Deputy provincial governor Keut Chhe said Sunday that provincial authorities destroyed 12 houses in Thma Da commune because MDS had a legitimate claim to the land, while the families did not.

“We removed their cottages,” Mr. Chhe said. “They did not have proper documentation.”

Mr. Chhe said one woman was arrested after she swore at authorities.

“We have detained a woman because she cursed at authorities while they were implementing their orders,” he said.

Khuon Phal Kun, 42, however, said his wife, Sok Da, was arrested merely for pleading with officials to spare their home, which they had lived in since 2000.

“[T]hey accused my wife of stopping them from doing their work, and so they arrested her.”

Mr. Phal Kun said about 40 police, military police and soldiers took part in the operation to tear down the houses, which was supervised by Mr. Chhe, the deputy governor.

He added that he was forced to seek refuge with his neighbors after his home was demolished and his property, including clothing and rice supply, was seized.

“We begged our neighbors for shelter and food,” he said.

Representatives of MDS could not be reached Sunday.

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