The latest eviction action in an ongoing land dispute in Oddar Meanchey’s Anglong Veng district has put three women in the hospital and resulted in the miscarriage of one of the women’s 3-month-old fetus, villagers told the Post yesterday.
One of the women, 32-year-old Thy Hor of O Ampil village, said that a group of 12 environment officers working for the Koulen Prumtep wildlife sanctuary and eight soldiers arrived at 3pm on Friday with the intent of burning down their homes, which they said lie on national park land.
Thy Hor, three months’ pregnant at the time, said she and two other women – Roeun Sophoan, 27, and Seng Thear, 30 – were beaten into unconciousness when they attempted to prevent the razing. The three, who have filed a complaint with rights group Adhoc, are being treated for their injuries at the provincial hospital.
“They tried to arrest men in the villages, but they cannot arrest those men, so they beat on us when we try to [remove] our property from our home,” she said.
She added that it is the third time that a group lead by Koulen Prumtep wildlife sanctuary director Kheng Socheat has come to drive out the villagers.
“They beat us with guns, took off our sarongs and shot us with a video camera, so I would like to request to Adhoc to find justice for us. We are humans; we are not animals.”
Villager representative Chhorm Chhoeun said that the threat of being burned out by soldiers has been a constant threat, adding that villagers had purchased the land in 2000 from an environment officer named Ry Heng.
“We are wondering why they accused us living on the national park, because we bought from them,” he said. “If they knew that it was a protected area, why did they sell it to sell to us?”
Chhorm Chhoeun added that villagers had agreed to relocate to Ramchek village in Anlong Veng commune in 2009, but ultimately returned to their old village when they realised they would not receive a promised 2 hectares of farmland each.
Since then, 128 houses have been burned down by provincial authorities in separate incidents on May 25, 2010, (103 houses) and August 30 (25 houses).
Kheng Socheat, director of Koulen Prumtep wildlife sanctuary, admitted that he went down with soldiers to oversee the tearing down of the cottages, but rejected the accusations of violence.
“Don’t believe those people,” he said. “They are not villagers from that area; they are migrant people. A lot of my officers got injured during a problem with them on December 9.”