AUTHORITIES in Kampong Thom’s Santuk district have demolished a pagoda on an eviction site in Kraya commune, former residents say, though the district governor contends that the structure was not a pagoda but rather a “small cottage”.
Pan Par, a former soldier whose family was among the hundreds evicted from Kraya commune in December, said that authorities had begun bringing Buddhist statues removed from the pagoda to a relocation site 7 kilometres away.
“They did this because they wanted to demolish the old pagoda and give the land to the Vietnamese rubber company to develop,” he said. “Even though they did not allow us to live in the old village, they should have let us keep our pagoda out of respect for the Buddhist religion.”
He added: “It’s such a pity that they dared to destroy the pagoda and have now left the Buddhist statues in the field.”
Disabled veterans and their families first began moving to the Kraya site in 2004, having received permission from local authorities. But in 2007, the government sold off an 8,000-hectare concession, including the families’ land, to Tin Bien, a Vietnamese rubber company.
The eviction was carried out in December. Rights groups estimated at the time that as many as 1,750 families were affected, though Licadho now puts that figure at 667.
Pich Sophea, Santuk district governor, said Thursday that there had been no pagoda on the site.
“This pagoda was not a real pagoda. It was a small cottage, so we demolished it because we have given the Vietnamese company the right to develop there already,” he said.
He also said that the families themselves had been responsible for removing the Buddhist statues from the structure.
“We did not bring the Buddhist statues from the pagoda,” he said. “The villagers came here and took them by themselves.”
He added; “We are preparing land for them so they can construct a pagoda in their new site.”