More than 200 families in Battambang’s Rokhakiri district are preparing to file a petition against local officials who they allege destroyed their homes on Monday in the Prey Tralach community forest.
Following a protest by the community, Chhay Matinal of the provincial administration visited the area yesterday to gather information.
Matinal said he had determined from his visit to Prey Tralach that the evictees were living illegally on the land and had ignored previous warnings from the Forestry Department to relocate.
However, village representative Chrun Puth said the authorities had made no efforts to resolve their dispute over access to the forest or allegations that local officials were involved in logging 500 hectares of the 1.3-square-kilometre protected area.
“Ten houses were burned down, another four pulled down, and at least 35 were cut to pieces with chainsaws,” he said.
“They said that we are living here illegally, but we’ve been here for a long time. We want to live here. Instead of working on a solution, they accused us of conspiring with the opposition party.”