A village chief in Preah Vihear’s Choam Ksan district has been accused by 40 villagers of threatening to evict members of Yeang commune who voted for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.
“He threatened to dismiss us from the village, because he found the names of the 40 villagers,” said commune resident Pich Vanny, 53.
Village chief Chan Heng shouted through a microphone in a pagoda on July 29, according to Vanny, justifying his threats by attributing the presence of roads and public infrastructure to the Cambodian People’s Party.
“It was our choice and our right to vote, but now we don’t sleep well at night,” said Pich Vanny, fearing forced relocation to undeveloped land.
Families were not just facing political persecution but are also being socially ostracised, said Chea Sarith, 45.
“They are discriminating against CNRP supporters by excluding us from social events in the village, which is where everyone socialises.”
Denying using the pagoda as a bully pulpit, Chan Heng also said he had made no threats nor used a microphone.
“I did not threaten dismissal like the villagers claim. I just said [local] development” was achieved by the CPP, he said.
Expressing concern over the allegations, director of the CNRP’s Preah Vihear offices confirmed receiving the villagers’ complaints and highlighted a need for clarification from the chief.
“This is the first case in this village of targeting CNRP supporters with threats of dismissal,” said San De, promising to personally investigate. If the villagers’ accusations were true, they were certainly facing discrimination, Adhoc provincial coordinator Lor Chan said.
“They are living in a remote area so threats [of dismissal] made residents panic,” he said.
While a village chief would not have the ability to unilaterally evict a family, Cambodian Center for Human Rights President Ou Virak said that incidences of intimidation have been rife before, during and after the election.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AMELIA WOODSIDE