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House feud at KR site

A man stands at the site of Ta Mok’s house in Oddar Meanchey in September
A man stands at the site of Ta Mok’s house in Oddar Meanchey in September. The government says it will take action against small clusters of unapproved housing being built near the historic site. Shane Worrell

House feud at KR site

Authorities in Oddar Meanchey province have threatened action against people who have built houses on protected land around the former home of late Khmer Rouge commander Ta Mok.

Seang Soheng, director of Anlong Veng town’s tourism department, said yesterday that people had cleared and were now living on parts of the 417-hectare tourist site that has Mok’s house as its centrepiece.

“We don’t know who is buying and selling the land,” he said. “But we know that some people are living on it. No one has the right to sell this land.”

The authorities would take measures to resolve the issue, he added, but were not yet sure how.

Mok’s house is situated in forest just out of Anlong Veng town, from which the Khmer Rouge waged a bloody resistance in the 1980s and 1990s.

The house, though basically just a shell now, still contains murals on the walls and other relics of the country’s violent past, including a prison van that sits outside.

A manmade lake surrounds the house, making it popular with locals seeking a place to relax, while a steady trickle of tourists also visits the site.

Ticket seller Sang Saroeung said that a number of people had built wooden and brick houses on parts of the land.

“Some of the land is now surrounded by fences,” he said. “The [government] should investigate.”

Saroeung – who helped build Mok’s house and knew the commander personally – said he believed people with political connections were involved in clearing the land.

“If they did not have connections, they would not live there. No one dares to disturb them,” he said.

The site, Saroeung added, was too important a tourist site for the Kingdom to lose.

Anlong Veng district governor Yim Phanna said he was aware people were living by the property and had told them to move on.

“But the land has not been lost or sold,” he said.

Known as “The Butcher” or “Brother Number Five”, Mok was known for his brutal and bloody massacres. He was close to Pol Pot during his final years.

Mok himself died in custody in July 2006, aged 80, before he could go to trial charged with crimes against humanity.

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