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Preah Vihear families seek top-level intervention

Families continuing to defy eviction orders in Preah Vihear fear police and authorities will use violence to remove them from their homes this week, villagers told the Post yesterday.

Representatives of Svay Chum village in Choam Ksan district’s Kantuot commune trekked to Phnon Penh on Friday to make a desperate plea for government intervention over the Samdech Techo land dispute.

The National Authority for Preah Vihear on December 19 ordered 132 families to leave their house by this Wednesday.  

Sao Yath, a village spokesman, said representatives had filed a complaint – thumbprinted by 253 villagers – directly with the National Assembly, the Senate and the Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspection because they fear for their safety.

“December 28 is almost here, and all the villagers are panicking – they fear violent evacuation,” he said.

“We worry the authority and police will move us out with violence and knock down our houses.” The authority had offered lots of 5,000 square metres and US$500 to each family to relocate; however, many villagers had refused to go because the new land was undeveloped, while others had relocated through fear of violence, Sao Yath said.

“There is no development such as streets, schools, markets and hospitals,” he said, adding a land title dating back to 2000 gave villagers the right to live on the land. 

Villager Phan Phoeun said residents had already complained to various government ministries and the provincial authority, but had not been given a suitable resolution.

Dam Yin, a police chief of Choam Ksan district, said police had not yet received instructions on how to evacuate villagers on December 28, but would act when ordered to.

Hang Soth, the general director for the National Authority for Preah Vihear, said the decision to resettle Samdech Techo villagers had been made according to a request from UNESCO and a royal decree.

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