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Authorities tear down 100 homes

Police in Kratie province’s Snuol district yesterday tore down about 100 homes of people allegedly illegally occupying an economic land concession belonging to a rubber firm.

Destruction of the makeshift homes came two weeks after authorities burned 200 houses and huts of about 600 migrant families who lived in the area since 2011, said Heng Phearak, Kratie’s provincial director for the rights group Adhoc. Villagers had rebuilt about 100 shelters when police came back yesterday.

“Police told villagers to dismantle their homes and huts within one hour,” Phearak said yesterday. “One hour later, they began destroying about 100 homes and huts.”

About 30 armed authorities approached the villagers as they were holding a Buddhist ceremony at a shrine they recently assembled, Phearak said.

When provincial police returned an hour later, about 50 of them – 14 with chainsaws – turned the 100 or so homes into piles of rubble, villager Sin Nary, 45, said.

“Some will sleep at a nearby pagoda tonight, and others will sleep on the ground in the open air,” said Nary, who added that five police officers built an office on the premises, and will stay there.

Homes police destroyed yesterday and two weeks ago sat on state-owned land, which is now an economic land concession for Vietnamese rubber firm Thanhlar, Phearak said. The concession covers 1,000 hectares.

Snuol provincial deputy district police chief Nhan Soyun yesterday said villagers occupying the land hailed from different provinces and were living there illegally.

After police destroyed the homes, a group of angry villagers blocked traffic on a road near the community, Phearak said.

Police cleared the villagers out of the road and arrested one man and one woman, said Phearak, who was unaware of the couple’s identity.

Declining to comment on the specifics of the case, Kratie provincial police chief Chhuong Seang Hak yesterday would only say that police acted against individuals who were breaking the law.

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