A GROUP of 60 disabled veterans and their families among hundreds forcibly evicted from Kampong Thom province’s Kraya commune in December have returned to their former cassava fields, saying authorities failed to provide them with the land promised under their terms of compensation – a charge officials have denied.
“When we arrived, the authorities showed us a piece of land they said we’d be getting, but they neither measured it out nor gave us a title. So now I’m back in my old village to harvest my cassava and earn some money. I’m living in the cassava fields, hiding from the authorities,” said villager Chhun Chhorn. “If the authorities find us, I will go back to the relocation site, but in the meantime, I want to harvest my cassava, because unless I can earn some money I won’t have any land on which to grow food next year.”
Prum Roth, another Kraya fugitive, said the poor quality of the area reserved for the 60 eventual returnees had as much to do with their departure as the uncertain boundaries. “We were so disappointed when the authorities pointed out the land, because it was at the end of the village and surrounded by forest,” he said.
Pich Sophea, Santuk district governor, insisted the evictees had been given plots. “Now we have provided land for all people in the new area – about 602 families, equal to 602 land titles,” he said.
Kraya commune was cleared of its last family on December 15, the final chapter in a two-year dispute between the association of disabled veterans and Vietnamese rubber company Tin Bien.