A coalition of about 30 soldiers, police, forestry officials and military police armed with chainsaws razed some 40 houses belonging to villagers in Pursat province’s Santre commune yesterday, claiming the villagers were illegally living in a state forest, villagers and officials said.
According to resident Chin Saran, 44, about 25 families had lived in the area since 2008, and had been asked to leave before.
However, after Hun Sen’s May sub-decree allotting land to those living in state forests, a new wave of some 40 families arrived, hoping to benefit from the anticipated land grant, and raising the ire of provincial officials.
Officers cut down newcomers’ homes, he said, then gave the others until Friday to go.
“If the prime minister helps us in time, it will be like we’re born again,” Saran said. “If not, we don’t know where to live.”
Sao Ranny, 55, told the Post through tears that her grandchildren had dengue, and had nowhere else to go, adding that villagers were threatened with arrest if they spoke to the press.
Santre deputy commune chief San Von said that the villagers and village chief had tried to speak up on behalf of the established residents, but to no avail.
“I have no capacity to help them, because I am afraid that the government will accuse me of doing something against them, so that only my superiors can help,” he said.
Phnom Kravanh district governor Touch Sambo maintained that the eviction conformed to the prime minister’s sub-decree, and was not meant to disrupt established residents.
To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at firstname.lastname@example.org