Villagers No Longer Seen As Secessionists

Villagers locked in a land dispute in Pursat province’s Veal Veng district no longer pose a secessionist threat, and those remaining in the contested area will receive new plots of land on which to live, the district governor said yesterday.

District governor Chhe Chhiv said that about 300 families—whose homes were demolished in Krapoeu Pi commune beginning on July 16—have already left the area and that the remaining 100 families living there would receive new plots of land nearby. “We have asked them [the remaining villagers] to come to register with officials and we will provide them land on which to build a house and grow crops,” Mr. Chhiv said, ad­ding that the remaining families were living illegally inside state forest in both Krapoeu Pi and Pramoy communes.

Immediately following the demolition of nearly 200 homes on July 16 and 17, Mr. Chhiv said that the area’s residents had been illegally living inside the Phnom Sankos wildlife sanctuary and might create a secessionist area there. Yesterday, Mr. Chhiv said that the threat of secession had faded because the remaining villagers had cooperated with commune officials.

“I don’t have to worry about them creating a secessionist area [now] because they came to register at the commune office and we will manage them as our villagers.”

Provincial governor Khoy Sokha said on Sunday that the homes of the remaining 100 villagers would be demolished if they did not leave the area. Mr. Chhiv, however, said yesterday that district officials would collect information about the remaining families today in order to calculate how much land to allocate for them.

“We have already prepared the land for them, but we don’t know yet how much land we will provide,” he said, adding that the new land would be located nearby but declining to provide further details.

Bros Ma, 49, a villager living on the disputed land in Pramoy commune, said that Mr. Chhiv had met with villagers yesterday to inform them that the new land was only for those who had lived in the area for a long time. “He said in the meeting that he will provide land to the old families that do not have enough land, but for the new families, he said they must leave and return to their homelands,” Ms. Ma said.

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