THIRTY-four families in Koh Kong province appear to be on the verge of eviction after a prominent businessman yesterday moved to destroy villagers’ crops on land claimed by both he and the families.
Perng Jerng, a representative of the families from Sre Ambel district’s Chi Khor Krom commune, said villagers tried to block military police and bulldozers yesterday in an effort to protect 100 hectares of land they claim ownership of.
“The company owner ... ordered 30 workers, including the police and military police, to bulldoze our farm,” she said.
The families, who are all from Prek Chik village, said they were assaulted as they tried to stand up to authorities.
Chhem Chhav said police kicked her and five members of her family to the ground when they tried to block a bulldozer.
“Although we were down on our knees, begging for them to stop bulldozing our cashew and jackfruit farms and our rice fields, they did not accept,” she said.
The families say they have lived on the land since 1980. Last year, however, the Supreme Court ruled that the land belonged to a pair of businessmen, Heng Huy and Sok Hong. The court later divided the land between the two, with most of it going to Heng Huy.
Heng Huy yesterday said he was entitled to clear the land and accused the villagers of trespassing on his property.
“The government provided a 779-hectare economic land concession to my company in 1993 for a sugar plantation, but they came to live illegally on my property,” he said. “Today, we just bulldozed our own land.”
Rights advocates, however, decried yesterday’s action.
“The villagers have been living on this land since 1980,” said Prom Keang, a provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho. He said the families petitioned the provincial court in May in an attempt to find a solution to the dispute.
“This is a serious violation against the court process and the people’s rights. They should have waited for the decision from the court judge first.”