Villager Travels to Parliament Over Land Row

A representative of villagers involved in a land dispute in Mondolkiri province appealed to the government Tuesday to address their displacement after their shelters were destroyed by police and soldiers in a forced eviction Monday.

Chan Rithy stood outside the National Assembly in Phnom Penh on Tuesday with a letter he said he wanted to deliver to National Assembly President Heng Samrin calling for the release of two village representatives he said were wrongly arrested on the same day as the eviction.

He explained that the eviction had displaced his community of 500 families, who settled in the area in 2012 only to be evicted by authorities for the first time later that year. After returning to the area recently, the families were evicted again.

“We have many documents involved with the dispute and we want the National Assembly to know about the dispute with the company,” Mr. Rithy explained. “The authorities cooperated with the company to evict the villagers from their homes and took the land to give to the company without providing compensation.”

He said another village representative, who was arrested with her husband, was wrongly accused of having illegally sold families plots of land on the disputed rubber plantation.

Provincial police chief Nhem Vanny said the couple was released at about noon Tuesday “at the discretion of the provincial court.”

“They were only released on bail, so we will follow them,” Mr. Vanny added. “This couple cannot go back to that area to incite other people to illegally sell plots of land.”

Sam Nhor, a village representative, said that at least 100 families from the Banong, Prov, Tumpuon and Kreang indigenous groups “have lived in this area since their grandfathers’ generation.”

“Now, we have run away from the area, and are having difficulty finding a new location to live,” she said. “Now that they have evicted us, where can we go to live?”

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