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Forced eviction down south

Forced eviction down south

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A backhoe yesterday demolishes the home of a villager in Preah Sihanouk province’s Keo Phos commune, one of 21 destroyed on the order of a local prosecutor. photo supplied Photograph: ..../Phnom Penh Post

Twenty-one families in Preah Sih-anouk province watched helplessly yesterday as more than 100 armed officials demolished their homes, villagers and their lawyer told the Post.

“I’m speechless. What is there to say? They have ruined our lives,” Khuon Sitha, who has lived at the site, in Stung Hao district’s Keo Phos commune, since 1993, said. “This is a very cruel act.”

Under orders from provincial prosecutor Bou Bunhang, authorities moved in yesterday, evicting residents and demolishing their homes.

Last April, provincial judge Hang Sitha upheld an order for families to vacate their houses and surrender the land to tycoon Cheam Phen, who plans a development of an undisclosed nature.

But Ing Sothy, a lawyer for the villagers, said an appeal against the decision was still pending and authorities had no right to evict the families and demolish their homes until the matter was resolved.

“This is contrary to the recommendation of the Supreme Court. It is not right, because the verdict of the court of first instance has not been definitive and we have already appealed,” Sothy said.

Contacted yesterday, Bunhang hung up, then turned off his phone. Judge Sitha could not be reached for comment.

Bun Narith, a provincial coordinator for Licadho, called the demolition both unjust and illegal.

“The court should not carry out this order, because the Appeal Court hasn’t resolved the problem according to procedure. The enforcement of this order means evidence in the case has been lost.”

Phin Thin, 59, who has been living on two hectares of farmland since 1992, said he was unsure how he could move on.

“They demolished our hou-ses like this; it seems they killed our lives,” Thin said.

“I do not have anywhere to live after my house was demolished, and I am responsible for caring for my four small grandchildren.”

Thin said that with nowhere to move to, he would have to remain squatting on the land where his house had stood.

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