More than 400 people clashed with police and military police in Ratanakkiri province on Wednesday as authorities attempted to bulldoze their houses to make way for a rubber company plantation, villagers said.
Authorities managed to bulldoze the houses of about 200 families, who they said had only recently moved to the site on the road linking O’Chum district and Banlung district, while a group of about 100 other families managed to prevent the destruction of their houses.
“I have lived on this land since 1993, but authorities never evicted us, so why do they need the land and to force us out now?” said Chhun Sochea, 43, who said he managed to fend off authorities.
“Where can I go? Where can I live?” Mr. Sochea asked.
Deputy provincial police chief Phen Dina said the families were living on the land in O’Chum district illegally and had been ordered out.
“Our forces went there to exercise the warrant from the provincial court to move the people from the slums that have built houses on state land,” he said. “It is the first step to removing people who are living illegally on state land.”
Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator of rights group Adhoc, said the Tai Seng Company had been given an Economic Land Concession for the land in 1996, which was transferred to the Swift Rubber Company in 2010.
Sao Bun, a 69-year-old villager, said that the long-term residents of the disputed land had not been offered any compensation.
“We will prevent them until we die, because we will lose everything if we lose this place.”
O’Chum district governor Pak Ton said that no such compensation would be offered.
“People can request a social land concession from authorities,” he said.