Security forces on Friday dismantled and burned three homes in Kandal province’s Sa’ang district after forcibly evicting the families, enforcing a Supreme Court decision from last year that ruled against the households’ claims to the land.
Captured on video by onlookers, the tense standoff between the villagers and about 100 police and Military Police officers also led to the arrest of one man, who was seized as he attempted to defy the demolition crew bearing down on his home in Raka Khpos commune.
In footage reminiscent of some of the Kingdom’s most notorious evictions, distressed occupants of one building clung to the interior of their wooden home and clambered onto excavators as workmen prepared to destroy the structure, which still contained some of the family’s possessions.
After resisting for several minutes, about half a dozen women were dragged outside the building by a group of men, some in uniform.
One occupant, who climbed into the rafters during the fracas, was coaxed down by workmen minutes before an excavator swung its bucket into the house, smashing it to pieces.
The actions of the authorities followed on from the conclusion of a legal case over ownership of the land at the Supreme Court in January 2016.
According to a court record concerning the case of Pon Thorn, the man arrested while resisting, the family’s claim to the land was overruled.
The court sided with an individual referred as Her Excellency Mei Kalyan, who was unreachable yesterday.
Another document in the case, filed by Kalyan, claims the three families were only given the land temporarily for a tyre repair shop business but had instead built homes.
However, at a protest yesterday next to the remnants of their homes, the evicted families denied this and claimed their ownership of the land had been recognised by district authorities.
The wife of the arrested man, Sean Seila, 44, claimed that the family had lived at the site since 1987. Lamenting the loss of her home, she demanded compensation and the release of her husband.
“He was just protecting his wife, his children and his home,” she said.
Another woman, Sae Kim Oun, 39, claimed she had resided since 1996 at the house authorities yesterday demolished.
“They used violence on my children by strangling and throwing them like animals,” she said.
Orn Yien, another of the evicted villagers, pleaded for intervention.
“I have enough legal documents,” Yien said. “Please, King Father, Samdech Hun Sen and Bun Rany, help us.”
Representatives of Kandal police and Military Police were unreachable. Provincial court spokesman Sam Rithiveasna defended the right of authorities to “fulfil their duties”.
“According to the law, the court is permitted to forcefully enforce,” Rithiveasna said.