THE rights group Adhoc yesterday condemned a local development company for threatening to evict nearly 300 families in Kandal province and to level a pagoda, saying the provincial court had previously ruled that the land in question should not be cleared.
At a press conference at its headquarters in Phnom Penh, the organisation said in a statement that local authorities had assisted the Heng Development Company in flouting multiple court rulings.
According to Adhoc, the dispute over land in Kandal Stung district first broke out in 2005, but the court sided against the company and in favour of 292 families twice – once in October 2006 and again in February 2007.
“Adhoc would like all relevant institutions to take this issue into consideration and implement the two judgments from the provincial court so that the families will be able to occupy the land peacefully,” the Adhoc statement reads.
Various altercations related to the dispute have led to the wounding of three villagers, the arrest of one man and the issuing of arrest warrants for two others, Adhoc said.
Earlier this month, military police arrested 45-year-old Vorn Vun on suspicion of destroying private property in connection with the dispute. Eang Yan, a representative of families affected by the dispute, said at the time that he believed the officers had also intended to arrest himself and fellow representative Chea Hy, but that they had fled their homes and gone into hiding.
District military police denied having carried out the arrest, with the deputy chief suggesting that it had been carried out by “another authority”.
In August, the company announced that Tuol Tamark pagoda, located on the land in dispute, would be destroyed next month.
Chan Soveth, a senior monitor for Adhoc, said yesterday that the loss of the pagoda would be particularly devastating for those families living on the disputed land. “If they lose the pagoda, it is like they lose their heart,” he said.
Sieng Chanheng, the director of Heng Development, declined to comment yesterday. Choie Sobin, the governor of Kandal Stung district, said he was unfamiliar with the dispute because he had assumed his position only recently.