Villagers’ Homes Razed While at Land Protest

In the latest twist in a land dispute in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo dist­rict, more than 20 houses be­longing to about 80 families were destroyed again on Tuesday when the families left home to protest in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s home in Kandal province, villagers and district officials said.

“There were only a few elderly people waiting and taking care of those small cottages when we left [to protest],” said Tim Phorn, 45, who lives in Russei Keo’s Demkor vil­lage. “I have lost everything.”

She said that more than 100 villagers tried to march to the Coun­cil of Ministers to protest the de­struction but that they were broken up by military police.

Officials have destroyed homes in Demkor village repeatedly in re­cent weeks. But the villagers have re­built each time. Last week their shelters were knocked down and re­built five times in as many days.

Police also prevented villagers from returning to their homes, said Khim Khorn, 42, who said she has lived in the village for five years.

“Officials kicked and beat us,” she alleged. “They wanted us to leave Phnom Penh.”

Srun Serey, 28, who said she has lived in the village for six years, con­­­curred.

“They understand our situation as powerless people, which is why they evicted [us],” she said. “I should have been given compensation for losing my house.”

Russei Keo district Governor Khlaing Huot said the villagers had been warned not to construct shelters in the area.

“Commune officials informed them many times to relocate,” he said. “But they tried to construct again and again.”

Khlaing Huot said he feared that if the shelters were not destroyed, the village would be inundated with squatters.

“Our country needs to enforce the law for both rich and poor people,” he said. “Otherwise there will be more land-grab problems.”

He charged that villagers were building homes in hopes of

re­­­­­­ceiving compensation and de­nied that force was used to evict them.

“No one was hurt or beaten,” he said.

 

 

 

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