A year to the day since armed soldiers stormed into the remote village of Pro Mar in Kratie province, killing a 14-year-old girl, arresting her husband and evicting hundreds of families, Sreng Pho still has nightmares.
“I’m really scared when I think back to that day the authorities came to crack down on our village,” she said yesterday.
Pho’s husband, Kan Sovan, was one of the men arrested, accused of plotting with Beehive Radio director Mam Sonando to create “a state within a state”, before being released months later.
The painful memories of her former home remain, but like many of the roughly 1,000 families evicted, Pho just wants to go back there.
“Tomorrow is a year since the crackdown in my village,” Pho said. “But we still cannot go back to our village, even though they did not find my husband guilty.”
Pho said villagers had been left without farmland and wanted to return to plant cassava but wasn’t sure if authorities were building a military base in the area, as reported by the Post in February.
“The authority has always said they have granted the land back to us. In fact, we have not got anything besides soldiers blocking us from going home.”
Prior to the eviction, villagers had been locked in a dispute with the company Casotim.
“People have been clearing our land, but they take away their excavators when we come to protest,” Pho said.
Touch Rem, one of the men imprisoned with Sonando, yesterday urged authorities to allow villagers home because it was planting season and many did not have land of their own to support their families.
“I haven’t the right to go back to my old village because am I still under watch by the court,” he said.
Chhlong district governor Som Sarith said authorities had already measured land for villagers in the area and they were now only waiting for land titles.
“I think some people have come to the area to cut trees and said this land belongs to them,” he said.