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Authorities destroy villagers’ homes

More than 50 houses in Mondulkiri’s Sre Preah commune were destroyed or damaged this week by authorities, residents said yesterday.

Saron Soneng, 40, said that on Monday, authorities, who accuse the residents of illegally occupying a state conservation area, burned down her home and 4 hectares of cassava.

“We are Cambodian too . . . the authorities should allow us to live and stay in our homes. Now we have nowhere to go but a pagoda,” she said.

Resident Puy Hor, 48, said he had returned to his damaged home.

“The authorities must pay us for the damage to our house and farm,” he said.

Sok Ratha, coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said damaging homes would not help resolve the dispute.

“It affects human rights when the authorities damage a resident’s house without a suitable solution,” he said.

But Sin Van Vuth, Keo Seima district governor, said authorities had no choice.

“We [will] force them to move. If they had come to complete the proper documents at the provincial hall, the authorities might have found them a social land concession to live on. But they did not complete the application,” he said.

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