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B’bang village heads for border

A village of 212 hectares in Battambang’s Bavel district has nearly become a ghost town after an alleged land grab by three tycoons has forced hundreds to find work abroad, locals and a rights group said yesterday.

In 2004, Boeung Raing commune’s Boeung 2 village was cleared by 128 families, who cultivated the land there until it became a village in 2006, according Chut Mao, 67, an early settler of the area whose children he said have since illegally immigrated to Thailand out of desperation.

Young villagers began leaving in droves last year after wealthy tycoons Song Thorn, Sorn Bunthoeun and Pen Ke began claiming the area as their own, according to locals.

Chan Soveth, deputy chief for Adhoc’s investigation department, confirmed yesterday that about 50 per cent of the village’s population was pursuing work abroad.

Phorn Pan, 62, a resident whose five children immigrated to Thailand in pursuit of work, also expressed sorrow that only the elderly remain left in the village.

“Before the election [last year], authorities came and promised to find a solution,” he said yesterday. “Instead, we only see court summonses to clarify the violence.”

Commune chief Chhea Ny was unable to outline any solutions yesterday, explaining that meetings were under way between people up the chain of command and NGOs.

Thorn, Bunthoeun and Ke could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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