Villagers Protest Evictions in Preah Sihanouk

More than 100 villagers representing 19 eviction-hit communities in Preah Sihanouk province protested outside the provincial hall on Thursday morning demanding authorities resolve their disputes and provide them with land titles.

The demonstrators—representing hundreds of families from Prey Nop and Stung Hav districts and Sihanoukville—demanded authorities redress their grievances with the government and private companies, some of which go back 15 years.

“We returned to protest because the government wants to allow people to build businesses, so we want the provincial governor to find a solution for us,” said Yu Veasna, who was among the protesters. “We will protest until we get our land for our businesses back.”

Provincial governor Yun Min said most of the cases related to the 19 evicted communities had now been dealt with, and that those protesting had been provoked by politicians.

“Their land disputes are different and happened many years ago. Some are in the provincial court’s hands, but about 70 percent of the disputes involving hundreds have been resolved,” Mr. Min said.  “Some disputes still have not been resolved yet, but we have not finished our work. They should wait longer. They should not listen to some politicians who incite them to protest,” he said, declining to comment further.

Boun Narith, provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, said most of the communities were caught in disputes with major companies. “Most of them were evicted after the local authorities issued land titles to companies or rich people,” Mr. Narith said. “In all the land disputes, the rich people and local authorities have conspired together…and it has affected local communities living here for a long time.”

The protests come after the provincial government announced in February that all bars, restaurants and guesthouses along O’Tres Beach, and some on O’Chheuteal, were to be evicted.

Mr. Min said on Thursday that a deadline for the beaches to be cleared would be set once the national government settles on new development plans.

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