Preah Vihear provincial authorities plan to register three new villages on land granted via social concessions to a local military battalion and an NGO that has been accused of an array of rights violations.
Provincial Governor Om Mara said on Tuesday that he had submitted a letter to the Ministry of Interior earlier this year that sought permission to register the new villages.
“It is nothing strange for this area to be divided into small villages,” he said, adding that such policies “strengthen the national administration system” by bringing remote villages under provincial governance.
Two of the villages – which are to be renamed Phum Koul 8 Bun Rany Hun Sen village and Phum Stoeung Kheuv Decho Hun Sen village – had already existed unofficially on land granted to Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Battalion 82.
Meanwhile, a village to be renamed Phum Vihearthor Samdech Decho Hun Sen already existed within a 556-hectare area of land granted to the Drugs and AIDS Research and Prevention Organisation, a local NGO that has been accused by local residents and rights groups of ongoing abuses including land-grabbing, rape, violence and intimidation.
Om Mara said the naming of the villages was a common way to “show love and respect” to the prime minister, but noted that the Interior Ministry had not yet officially approved a sub-decree recognising them.
Moul Mab, Kantuot commune chief in Cham Ksan district, said that Battalion 82 had conducted a census of more than 500 families in the two villages on its land, while DARPO officials had conducted a census of more than 400 families in Phum Vihearthor Samdech Decho Hun Sen village.
Pen Loem, a one-star RCAF general and director of DARPO, said that 498 families had been registered during the census, which was forwarded to the provincial authorities on Monday.
However, Sam Duong, a villager from the future Phum Vihearthor Samdech Decho Hun Sen village, said he had not been questioned for the census, but said that local officials had informed him of the new village name.
Chan Soveth, a senior investigator at the local rights group Adhoc, welcomed the establishment of the new villages, which he said could mitigate land disputes in the area, but warned that ongoing protests and complaints against DARPO regarding rights violations would likely continue.