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Villagers fear ‘airstrip’ eviction

About 100 families living next to Preah Vihear town’s disused provincial airstrip claim their homes are under threat because authorities are looking to develop the facility.

One of the residents, Soy Sam Oeurn, 50, said it had been his home since 1993, when village and commune officials had sent him and others letters authorising it.

“We were shocked when we were told that we are living on airstrip land,” he said. “If we are living on state-owned property, why didn’t they tell us that at the beginning? Why tell us only now?”

Moreover, villagers said students working as part of the government’s land-titling scheme refused to measure their land because they were living there illegally.

Another villager, Taing Ly, 52, believes the government is planning to expand the airstrip, which was built in the 1950s.

But Preah Vihear town governor Nuth Sophorn denied the claims and said that the families were asked to move because they were squatting on state land.

“Only four families originally lived in front of the airstrip, to work as security guards, but later more moved in by removing the airstrip’s border posts.”

He said the volunteer students would measure the land in the next two months, and compensation would be given to anyone required to relocate.

Sixty-two of the families have filed a joint letter to rights group Adhoc, asking for an intervention.

Lor Chann, provincial coordinator for Adhoc, said he expected more families would follow suit.

To contact the reporter on this story: Phak Seangly at seangly.phak@phnompenhpost.com

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