HUMAN rights group Licadho said Wednesday it will investigate a land dispute case in the southern province of Kampot, in which local villagers claim they were told this week to leave the land by Friday or face having their homes destroyed.
"I will go to the place to look into this case," said Licadho official Sun Sopheak, adding that he had been informed of the incident by villagers.
Noch Tha, 47, from Kilometre 12 village in Koh Touch commune, said that Environment Police from the adjacent Bokor National Park told the 20 families they were on state land.
"We were threatened by them and told we have to remove our houses or they will be dismantled or burned," he said, adding that two of the police were armed.
Noch Tha said the families have lived on 54 hectares of land since 2000. Last year authorities tried to move them off the land after saying it was part of a conservation area.
Villagers then learned that the land had been sold to a private company.
"But the provincial court in Kampot ruled that we could continue to live here and maintain our plantations," he said.
The villagers' version of events was contested by Yang Phirom, the director of Bokor, who said that six or seven families had come just this month to squat illegally on the land.
"We cannot allow them to live on the land, so in principle we have to evict them," Yang Phirom said. "We will dismantle their huts within the next few days."
Yang Phirom said some of the land they have cleared belongs to the concession awarded to the well-connected Sokha Hotel Group.