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Authorities run short of land plots for evictees

NEARLY 60 families out of the hundreds evicted earlier this month from Kampong Thom province’s Kraya commune have told authorities that they plan to return to their former village unless they receive the compensation land promised to them, villagers said Monday.

Former Kraya resident Chhun Chhorn said that when authorities dropped his family off at the Thmor Samleang relocation site, “they did not provide us with any land of our own. They only told us that for now we would have to live on someone else’s land.”

Evicted veteran Nong Den said he would rather face the consequences of returning to Kraya than continue to drift from one property to the next.

“Better to go back to my village than live on somebody else’s land, because whoever it is comes to yell and chase us off their land every day.

“Every plot at the new location has an owner, so where is my land? If they don’t have the land, please let us to go back to our old village,” he added.

Uch Sam On, Kampong Thom deputy governor, said that “there are about 60 families that did not receive their compensation land yet, because we don’t have the land yet to give them. We intend to provide them with land, but right now we’re still looking for a source”.

“We prepared enough land for 400 titles, but then 600 families were relocated, so now we’re trying to make up the difference,” he added
Pich Sophea, Santuk district governor, said that under no circumstances would villagers be allowed to return to Kraya. However, “villagers can still go to their fields to harvest cassava”, the district governor said.

Veterans and their families began settling in Kraya commune in 2004 and received official recognition for their community in 2005. In 2007, however, the area was given as an economic land concession to a Vietnamese rubber company.

Nearly two years of tension came to a head in November, when a crowd of villagers set fire to company equipment and then clashed with soldiers and police. The crackdown that followed pushed the commune’s 1,750 families to accept the government’s relocation plan. The village was cleared on December 15.

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