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Evictees to reject offer

Twenty-one families whose houses were demolished during an eviction on Tuesday said yesterday that they planned to refuse an offer of houses, land and cash from the tycoon who now possesses their land.

Khun Sytha, a villager in Preah Sihanouk province who was evicted from Prey Non district’s Kao Pus commune, said families had rejected the offer made by Cheam Phen, the owner of Leo Beer, because they were wary of his intentions.

“We had a meeting this morning with the commune chief,” she said. “We don’t want Cheam Phen’s houses. We want to live back on our land.”

Villagers, however, will continue to discuss the offer in another meeting scheduled for today, commune chief Nong Dinara said.  

More than 100 armed officials evicted the families from Rithy II village after a provincial court ruling that their lawyer says was still pending appeal.

Villagers and commune officials say Phen had offered each family a 20-by-30-metre plot, a house and $2,500.

The villagers also appear to have another option, after tycoon Mong Reththy, owner of the biggest palm oil plantation in the country, yesterday offered them housing in exchange for their agreeing to work for his company.

“They can stay there with their children forever, but they can’t sell,” he said, referring to 21 housing units he said he owned. “The important thing is that they work for me.”

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