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Villagers say troops torched 300 homes

Villagers living on disputed land near Bokor National Park violently evicted for the second time in six months, say human rights groups

HUNDREDS of families are homeless after their violent eviction from their village on the outskirts of Bokor National Park in Kampot province, according to local residents and rights groups.

Villagers from Anlong Krom, in Kampot's Taken commune, say  hundreds of troops from RCAF's Brigade 31 arrived without warning Monday and Tuesday and set fire to 300 wooden homes belonging to the residents - the second eviction from the area this year.

In June 300 armed soldiers from Brigade 31 demolished the homes of 200 families, who fled to the nearby hamlet of Kbal Damrey.

Anlong Krom resident Hem Da said villagers gathered to protest Monday morning but were threatened with arrest by the soldiers.

"When villagers protested, [the soldiers] hurt them and threatened to arrest and imprison them," he said. Rights groups say six local villagers were injured - three seriously - as they protested the destruction of their property.

Hem Da added that no replacement housing has been provided to the affected residents. "They have not found a relocation site for us," he said. "We have nowhere to live."

The eviction came a day before four residents from a nearby village are scheduled to stand trial on charges of robbery and damaging private property in an earlier confrontation with Brigade 31 soldiers.

Nhek Chantha, 52, Vong Ma, 46, Moeu Sopheak, 19, and Noeu Kak-Kada, 18, were arrested in June for protesting the subdivision of land in Kbal Damrey village, needed to house the villagers evicted from Anlong Krom.

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