More than 300 people on Sunday pledged to further resist moves by district authorities to evict them from the land they have lived on for more than three years alongside an large rubber plantation owned by the Try Pheap Company in Preah Vihear province.
Rovieng district governor Ea Saro released a letter Thursday ordering villagers living opposite Try Pheap’s land concession along National Road 62 to leave their homes within 15 days after a series of unsuccessful attempts by authorities to clear their land using a bulldozer.
“Authorities will crack down strongly in accordance with the law in case they [the villagers] do not agree to follow the announcement,” the letter states.
Villagers allege that the 1,000-hectare plot is being cleared to be added to Mr. Pheap’s sprawling rubber plantation—estimated to be some 10,000 hectares in size—and that the bulldozer they have prevented authorities from using over the past week belongs to the well-known businessman.
Mr. Saro, for his part, reportedly told a villager last week that the plot of land being cleared would be given as a social land concession to 200 ethnic Kuoy minority villagers.
Oeun Sitha, one of the more than 300 people living in Romany commune’s O’Pur village, said that villagers still did not agree to the eviction and would move to prevent the clearing of their land and homes.
Mr. Sitha said that the villagers did not want to relocate as most villagers made their money through small businesses lying alongside National Road 62.
He added that he could now not rule out the use of violence by villagers in response to further efforts to evict them.
“We all together will sit in front of a bulldozer in order to not allow it to clear our houses and homeland, and we will respond with machetes and axes if they order the bulldozers to role over the villagers,” he said.
Mr. Saro said that district authorities had issued a second letter Sunday ordering the villagers to leave.
“We’re evicting them because they made an anarchic settlement and they should go back to where they came from,” Mr. Saro said, denying that the land was being cleared to be given to Mr. Pheap.
Villagers have said they moved onto the land with the permission of local authorities in 2010.