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Armed removal for Preah Vihear offices

Residents of Svay Chrum village near Preah Vihear temple protested yesterday while military and police dismantled their homes to make way for Preah Vihear National Authority and UNESCO offices.

“Soldiers, military police, police and local authorities have just now destroyed houses that had no people in them,” said Touch Thoeung, deputy chief of Choam Ksan district’s Kontout commune.

“They will destroy all houses in this place because they are located under the Preah Vihear National Authority and the area needs to be developed.”

He said a deadline for people to move issued by the district governor had expired.

Local said officials were armed and took wood from the houses away by truck.

Phann Thoeun, 37, added that “armed forces” attempted to arrest protesting residents and load them onto trucks.

“But other villagers helped intervene,” he said. “We were warned of arrest and imprisonment if we protested. They were all well-armed and everyone had a nice gun.”

Villager Sao Yath said he and three residents are on the run, fearing arrest.

“Armed forces are looking for us and tried to arrest us when we asked them to show us a letter from the government allowing the destruction of people’s houses,” he said by phone yesterday.

253 families have rejected an offer of 2 million riels (US$475) in compensation and a 50-by-100 metre plot in nearby Thamacheat Samdech Techo village.  

District police chief Bam Yin  said 26 houses had been disassembled by 20 military, police and government officials, and he was “not sure” if they would resume activity today. He denied reported threats of arrest.

Hor Neat, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said more than 100 soldiers, military police, police and local officials were involved.

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