Provincial authorities in Preah Vihear said yesterday that they were too preoccupied to respond to a letter written by Om Yentieng, head of the government’s human rights body, regarding villagers in Kantuot commune who requested intervention on a land dispute.
The letter, written by Om Yentieng on February 7 and addressed to Om Mara, the governor of Preah Vihear province, asked for a quick resolution to a dispute involving 253 families who have requested permission to remain living on land in Choam Ksan district’s Svay Chrum village.
The families have been asked to leave the area and dismantle their houses and relocate to Thamacheat Samdech Techo village at an undisclosed time.
“I have not yet sent a letter responding to the senior minister’s letter because I am too busy with border tension,” Om Mara said yesterday, adding that they are writing one and would send it soon.
“We have land to give people but now we are very busy,” he said, adding that the land was taken for Preah Vihear National Authorities and not for any specific individual.
The deadline to remove uninhabited houses was from December 30 to January 5, while houses with people living in them were to be removed after owners received 50 to 100 metre land concessions from authorities.
Sao Yath, village representative for Svay Chrum village, said on Saturday that he is looking for intervention from the government and the Cambodian Human Rights Committee to allow them to remain on the land.
“We are struggling to protest and we ask government officials to help us and not to remove our houses from our land because we have lived here for many years,” he said.
Om Phirom, heritage police chief at the Preah Vihear National Authority, said yesterday that plans to remove people from the village had been delayed due to recent border clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops, adding that they will restart the relocation process in the near future.
“The situation has been tense at the border recently, so plans to remove houses and [relocate] people to new places has been delayed. It will be started again soon when the border situation is better,” Om Phirom said yesterday.
He added that some people who were forced to abandon their houses during the border conflict are returning and some have started to sell their goods again in houses and markets.
Om Yentieng could not be reached for comment yesterday.