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Scores of evicted families flout orders and return, citing disease

A TOTAL of 173 families evicted in May from protected forest in Oddar Meanchey province’s Anlong Veng commune have moved back, villagers said yesterday.

Villager Sam Sileang, 40, said that former residents of O’Ampil village had decided to return on June 29, after a protest staged in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Takhmao home did not spur official intervention.

“We could not live in the new relocation site just waiting to die,” Sam Sileang said. “Many families got sick, and we have no clean water.”

He said that about 16 villagers had become sick with malaria, typhoid and diarrhoea since moving to a relocation site in O’Rumchek village, 10 kilometres from O’Ampil.

On May 25, around 103 houses in O’Ampil were burned down by local authorities after Siem Reap provincial court ruled that the villagers were living illegally on the protected land.

Anlong Veng district governor Yim Phanna said that authorities had already tried to assist the villagers at the relocation site and would not allow them to stay on the protected land.

“We will force them to move to the new relocation place. I don’t know why they say it’s impossible to live in O’Rumchek, when others have been living there without problems,” he said.

Chhaom Chhoeun, 42, said the villagers were living in temporary housing in their old village, and that no authorities had forced them to leave again as of yesterday.

He said that if officials attempted to evict them, the villagers would appeal again to Prime Minister Hun Sen for intervention.

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