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Families fear arrest after defiant stand

Families fear arrest after defiant stand

Villagers living on state-owned property in Pailin province fear that police will arrest them after they ignored orders to vacate their land by last Saturday, a representative said yesterday.

At the beginning of the month, authorities sent a letter to 19 families who started clearing land and building homes in Sala Krao district’s Phnom Kren village in February, saying the land sat on a stretch of more than 2,100 hectares reserved for development of an airport, said Prak Sophima, a provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc.

The families, part of nearly 150 families who were each granted three hectares of land for agriculture by a commune chief in 2000, recently moved to live there, said Chhay Chhat, 43, a representative of the families.

Authorities have not taken any action against those still occupying the property.

Since the March 15 deadline has passed, four representatives of the families living on the property have received a letter from Pailin provincial police, asking them to appear for questioning.

“We are very suspicious,” Chhat said. “We are worried this is a pretext to interrogate and arrest us.”

Sala Krao district deputy governor Sam Saret said the families have been told many times that the state owns the land.

A Pailin provincial official contacted yesterday declined to comment on the issue.

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