Hundreds rousted by RCAF soldiers in Kampot are in dire need of
shelter, rights monitors say, as the government says illegal squatters
HUNDREDS of families whose homes were torched and dismantled earlier this week in a violent land eviction near Bokor National Park say they have been left starving and without anywhere to go, local villagers told the Post Thursday.
Up to 300 houses in Anglong Krom, in Kampot's Taken commune, were destroyed during the eviction Monday and Tuesday by RCAF soldiers from Brigade 31, who have been involved in earlier evictions in the same area, villagers said.
Six villagers were injured - three of them severely - while clashing with the troops as their properties were ransacked, rights monitors say.
IF WE HAD A CHOICE WE WOULD NOT STAY HERE.... WE ARE LIVING IN FEAR.
Hem Da, whose home was torched to the ground, said that villagers were now sleeping under the open air without shelter or food, while being threatened with arrest from soldiers in the area.
"We have nowhere else to go, so we might as well die here," Hem Da said.
"Most of the villagers here are starving, as their food supplies have run out."
Hem Da said that on Thursday, an environmental police officer from Bokor National Park arrived and ordered villagers to leave within three days.
"If we had a choice we would not stay here," he said. "We are living in fear under the watch of soldiers."
Am Sam Ath, a monitor for human rights NGO Licadho, said that on Thursday his organisation took rice and fish to the villagers.
"The violent eviction by the armed forces is an abuse of human rights," he told the Post while on his way to the site. "These people are very poor, so the destruction of their homes means they are now even poorer."
Am Sam Ath added that even those villagers living illegally on the land should have been informed before their eviction so that they could prepare themselves.
"[The government] should come to investigate how these people are living," he said. "Then look at the possibility of relocating them instead of kicking them out with nothing."
More evictions to come
Chey Uterith, the director of Bokor National Park, said that the army had evicted 192 families and that among those, only 83 owned the homes they were living in. He added that villagers from three other locations nearby will also be evicted in the near future.
"The villagers were not living there legally," he told the Post on Thursday. "We will figure out how many families really deserve new land and will try to provide concessions for them."
A military official in Brigade 31 told the Post that the number of illegal homes being built had increased, and that soldiers were now guarding the area against the squatters.