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Families face eviction from protected forest

Families face eviction from protected forest

OFFICIALS in Oddar Meanchey province have identified two relocation sites for families who have settled in a protected forest area, and have vowed to evict them in two weeks.

Meanwhile, the case against soldiers and their relatives who are accused of opening fire on and physically assaulting Forestry Administration officials when they came to survey the land last month has apparently stalled, with no new summonses being issued.

Thon Nol, the governor of Samraong town, said relocation sites for 150 of the families had been identified in Bansay Reak commune and Konkriel commune.

“There are 100 families we want to live in Bansay Reak and 50 families we want to live in Konkriel,” he said.

The remaining 50 families would eventually be moved to an as-yet-unbuilt military base in the province, he added.

Forestry officials have said the section of land was granted protected status last June, but that 10 families moved there in late 2009. That number has since climbed to 200.

The altercation between forestry officials and military members occurred on March 11, and forestry officials filed complaints with the Interior Ministry and the Siem Reap provincial court shortly after.

A hearing in the case was postponed on March 30 when a judge failed to show up, and Sa Thlai, the head of community forests in Oddar Meanchey, said on Wednesday that no further action had been taken since then.

Siem Reap provincial court officials could not be reached.

Sa Thlai said that, after the March 11 incident, he and his staff were too afraid to revisit the protected area.

“They promised to tear down their huts, but until today they are still there and more families are coming,” he said.

“We do not dare go inside that area because we are afraid that they will clash with us again, and who will be responsible for us if we die?”

Thon Nol said that the families would be forced to move in about two weeks.

Srey Naren, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said he approved of the move to clear the families out of the protected area, and added: “If they don’t have land, they should write a request to city officials for a land concession rather than cutting down protected trees.”

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