Villagers in Former Khmer Rouge Stronghold Resist Move

About 200 villagers in Kampot province’s Chhuk district on Monday resisted the latest attempt by provincial authorities to demarcate land spanning three villages in a former Khmer Rouge stronghold that is earmarked for the families of retired military officials, villagers and officials said.

On Monday morning, 10 officials from the provincial government and land management department, along with five military police, were met with resistance in Decho Aphivat commune, according to villagers, who said they pushed and shoved them away from the disputed area.

According to Sim Vuthea, provincial director of administration, some 450 families claiming to have lived on the 1,000-hectare plot since 2003 are there illegally.

“They are living on the state’s reserved land. We have informed them many times already to move,” Mr. Vuthea said, adding that Monday’s effort to measure the land ended shortly after villagers become confrontational.

“The officials left shortly afterward, as they were afraid of confrontation with the villagers. However, we are now preparing for 100 [retired military families] to go live there,” he said. “We are considering what to do next so we can avoid any violence with the villagers.”

A representative of the villagers, 49-year-old Phi Heng, said they would continue to resist attempts to move the community.

“We prevented the officials coming into our village because they came to grab our land and give it to soldiers without paying us compensation,” he said.

Chan Hong, 60, another villager, said authorities informed them again last month that the land they are living on belonged to the state and that they would have to vacate it.

“The provincial officials claim they must clear our houses to make room for the soldiers but say they will give us back a hectare of land, but most of us have more than 3 hectares,” Mr. Hong said, adding, “If they want our land, they will have to come and kill us first,” he said.

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