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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Poipet fears renew bloody eviction scenes

Poipet fears renew bloody eviction scenes

poipet.jpg
poipet.jpg

Tracey Shelton

Som Pheap sitting in front of her relocated home. Her husband was shot and subsequently died following their first eviction. She was left with seven children and no compensation.

In Poipet, where a mass eviction two years ago ended in six deaths, another group

of families living in the village known as Dom Nok Teuk are soon to be evicted.

The villagers in Dom Nok Teuk estimated that 1,000 families have been asked to leave

their homes and businesses they have built over the last few years. They said they

thought they had been given the land to keep.

"The government gave us this land because they wanted to help the poor people,"

said Son Lie who moved to Dom Nok Teuk with her husband and five children six months

ago. "I don't understand why now they want to take it back."

Sok Sareth deputy governor of Banteay Meanchey, told the Post that it was not 1,000

families but 466 families who are to be evicted from 172 hectares of disputed "national

agricultural land."

Sareth said they were waiting on an order from the Ministry of Interior before moving

ahead with clearing the land. "We plan to provide each family with 6m by 12m

plots," he said.

"The authorities have no intention of treating its people badly. Poipet is a

collection of people that have migrated from everywhere in the country. We are taking

care for them, but they do not understand our difficulties."

Villagers told the Post that no compensation was offered.

"They already made many families leave the land next to us," said Lie.

"I don't know where they went, but now they have cleared away all their houses.

Everyone is afraid the police with come back soon. We don't know what we will do.

It's the rainy season so how can we stay on the street?"

Soum Chankea, coordinator of human rights NGO Adhoc at Banteay Meanchey said it appeared

that local authorities mismanaged the situation and they should have moved people

out years ago instead of allowing the community to take root and spread.

He added that Adhoc had not investigated the case but he had visited the site.

"They have known that people were living on this land since 2005. Why didn't

they push them out at the beginning when just a few families came. The people do

not understand about the law, they did not know if the land belonged to the public

or private."

Poipet has seen violence erupt over land issues before. In 2005, authorities opened

fire on villagers who refused to leave their homes in Kbal Spean, killing six. The

218 evicted families spent two months on the street until they were finally given

back a portion of the land to rebuild.

Som Pheap, 43 who lives with her seven children, lost her husband in the dispute.

"My husband and I were playing with the youngest baby inside when we heard something

going on. I picked up the baby and we all went out to see what was happening. All

of a sudden my husband was shot and the children were screaming. They shot him dead

right there in the street at the front of our home."

Eng Chea, now 68, recalled how he had lived in Kbal Spean with his daughter and her

eight children since 1997. "They offered us land to live on a long way from

town where it was not possible for us to make business," Chea said.

"The land was bad. It had not been cleared and we had no money to clear the

trees and grass so for two months we lived on the street. It was the rainy season

and they had burnt everything so we had nothing to make shelter and many people got

sick."

Chea said it took about one year to rebuild houses for everyone, but he said life

continues to be difficult because they have no space to grow vegetables or raise

animals. Each family was given $70 and a few bags of rice in compensation. Two and

a half years later, the cleared land that caused so much trouble still lies empty

with no apparent plans for the area in place.

Pheap, whose husband was shot, said it is difficult to resume an ordinary life, and

her children miss their father.

"No one ever explained why. We were never given anything - not even an apology,"

she said. "I don't understand why they would shoot him for nothing, and now

the land is still empty. I'm angry but what can I do?"

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