ERJ staff report (TP)
Preah Vihear, Cambodia − About 100 villagers in Rovieng district, Preah Vihear province (northern Cambodia) turned out in protest on 26 October to prevent a local businessman’s bulldozer from clearing their land next to his rubber plantation, reported Aun Pheap for The Cambodia Daily.
One of the villagers, 52-year-old Seak Sokha, said that the district governor spoke to the affected families and told them that authorities were clearing the area to demarcate a 1,000-hectare social land concession for 200 ethnic Kuoy minority villagers and that they planned to build a new village to relocate the people who lose their land.
“We are not opposed to the district’s plan for establishing the village, but we have not agreed to be evicted from the land and have our houses removed,” Sokha said.
“We stopped the clearing because they did not inform us about the second clearing,” he said, referring to the land clearing on 24 October, which the families also stopped through protests. On that day, more than 100 protesters representing about 100 families from the Romany commune living on a strip of land adjacent to Pheap’s rubber plantation stopped his company’s bulldozer as they believed the land was being cleared to expand his sprawling rubber plantation, estimated to be some 10,000 hectares in size.
Commune police chief Chhit Oeung said on 24 October that the clearing had been suspended so that families and authorities could negotiate. But on the morning of 26 October the bulldozer, with a group of 10 security guards led by Rovieng district governor Ea Saro, returned and begun clearing another plot of land about 500 metres from the first land clearing.
Sokha said the governor had invited protesters to attend a meeting on 26 October, but then he failed to show up − an absence Saro later blamed on his busy schedule. Saro added on 27 October that villagers had misunderstood the reason for the bulldozer’s presence.
“People are worried because they are afraid that we are clearing their farmland and houses. I have told them we are now simply demarcating the social land concession but they won’t allow us to do it,” he said.
Asked whether the land being cleared on 26 October by the bulldozer was also part of the reported social concession land, Saro said he did not know exactly where the concession land begins and ends. He then admitted that the area currently being cleared by Pheap’s firm was probably about 1 km outside the proposed social concession.
Lor Chan, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc who was present at the 26 October protest, said that although part of the social land concession is reportedly earmarked for ethnic Kuoy families, he believes the rest of the land will be sold to Pheap’s company.
“I think authorities are clearing land for Pheap because the bulldozer and the driver are from his company and authorities have given conflicting comments about why the land is being cleared,” he said.
This is an external link and should open in a new window. If the window does not appear, please check your pop-up blocking software. ERJ is not responsible for the content of external sites.
Full story from The Cambodia Daily