In a speech at the Peace Palace yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said that he will be closely watching the case of a group of evicted villagers in Preah Sihanouk province on whose behalf he intervened this week by voiding a sub-decree granting their land to a beer tycoon.
Though the villagers’ homes in Prey Nop distric’s Keo Phos village had already been demolished, the premier struck down the concession giving Leo beer distributer Oknha Cheam Phen control of the land, and ordered the homes rebuilt at his own expense – a move lauded by many, while others noted its timing seemed to lend itself to the upcoming campaign season.
“This action I will not tolerate. What, Oknha Cheam Phen, Leo beer boss? In this case, the oknha cannot get away,” Hun Sen said, speaking at the inauguration of a green development agency. “Why does he have the rights to clear people’s houses? I cannot accept this.”
The premier added that it was his wife and children who called his attention to the matter. “That night, my wife and children were waiting for me to leave a meeting, and they started crying when they saw several of the pictures [of the eviction]. When I saw those pictures, [I said] these acts cannot be tolerated,” he continued.
“Who allows someone to do that?” he asked of the provincial court, which awarded the land to Phen, pending appeal, in 2007.
Resident Hour Sivina said the court was as much to blame as the developer, so villagers would file complaints against four court and district officials.
One such official – prosecutor Bou Bunheang, who signed off on the eviction – declined to comment in detail, saying: “Ask the judge, because he is an
enforcer, not a prosecutor.
“I joined [in the eviction] to be an observer,” he added.
Provincial police chief Tak Vantha said he has received no order to find Cheam Phen, adding the eviction was done “on the order of the court”.