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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Kampot residents fear new eviction

Kampot residents fear new eviction

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Villagers violently dispossessed in November fear further crackdown ahead of PM's visit.

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Anlong Krom villagers flee following an eviction last year. 

RESIDENTS of a besieged community in Kampot province's Taken commune say they fear a final eviction from their land ahead of a visit by Prime Minister Hun Sen to the province next month.

During a pagoda inauguration in Kampong Speu province on March 9, Hun Sen confirmed that on April 4 - also his birthday - he and his wife Bun Rany would attend the opening of the Koh Sla Health Centre in Kbal Damrey village.

"On my birthday, I always try to visit disabled soldiers," he said.

The facility sits at the centre of a social land concession granted by the government to disabled former soldiers in 2007.

But residents in the neighbouring village of Anlong Krom, which lies less than a kilometre from the concession, say they fear the community's remaining families will be swept out ahead of the premier's arrival.

Around 300 homes were razed in Anlong Krom in November, allegedly by troops belonging to RCAF Brigade 31, but most have remained in the area, eking out a temporary existence on the land.

The evictions came following similar actions the previous July, with officials claiming the people were illegally squatting on land belonging to nearby Bokor National Park.

But Hong Chantha, a representative of Anlong Krom's Anlong Chas hamlet, said that six military officials from Brigade 31 arrived in the village Wednesday morning and started to dismantle one villager's hut before being chased off by around 30 local families.

Ominous warning

He said the community, which has rebuilt itself since November's events, lived in constant fear of another violent crackdown.

"So far, we have been able to live on the land, but we still fear that sometime soon the authorities will come to oust us again," he said, adding that the village had plans to request Hun Sen's personal intervention when he visits next month.

"We will try to meet [Hun Sen] and request that he provide us with a social land concession ... so that we will be able to live and continue farming here."

In conversations with villagers earlier in the month, Hallam Goad, an adviser for housing rights advocacy group Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, also reported they were feeling "genuinely intimidated" by the authorities, and expressed fears they would be evicted prior to Hun Sen's visit.

But Sun Sothea, secretary general of Kampot province, said all the Anlong Krom residents living illegally inside the bounds of Bokor National Park had been forced into nearby areas surrounding the handicap concession zone, and that now more evictions would be forthcoming.

He added that authorities had provided 30-metre-by-50- metre and 50-metre-by-100-metre plots of land for 1,630 landless families displaced by the evictions.

Taken commune Chief Tom Phuong confirmed that of the 3,000 families living in the commune, most were "demobilised military and handicapped soldiers" who had migrated to the area from other parts of the country.

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