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Mondulkiri villagers decry torching of homes by police

Mondulkiri villagers decry torching of homes by police

More than 60 families in Mondulkiri province’s Roveak village in Rayum commune are worried about their safety and that of their housing after authorities deployed forces to surround their village on Sunday following eviction orders from the government.

Bun Sokchea, 49, said that on Saturday, Koh Nhek district police burned down four four-by-five-metre houses, causing a three-year-old boy to cut his right leg on an exposed nail when he ran for his mother after seeing his house in flames.

“It was too unjust that the authorities had dismissed us from the village for the land to be granted to a Vietnamese company,” he said.

According to the Royal Book issued on June 23, 2011, Prime Minister Hun Sen signed three documents on June 15 and 16 granting a concession of 28,000 hectares of land to Pacific Pearl Joint Stock Company Limited to start a rubber plantation.

Under Cambodian law, economic land concessions must be limited to 10,000.

Bun Sokchea said he came to Mondulkiri because his old house would be threatened by the Lower Sesan II dam, which is slated to be built in Stung Treng province.

“We had just settled in the village one year ago, and the reason we came to live there was that we knew that our old area in Stung Treng province will be flooded after hydropower starts,” he said.

If authorities burned down more villagers’ houses, the villagers would fight back to protect their homes, he said, adding this was the third time authorities had harassed them.

Koh Nhek district police chief Men Savann refused to comment, and Mondulkiri governor Chan Yoeun could not be reached.

Chan Sovet, a senior investigator for human rights group Adhoc, said that although the villagers are new settlers, authorities should take action to resolve the situation peacefully and avoid violent encounters like the recent shooting in Kratie that resulted in the death of a 14-year-old girl.

Earlier this month, Hun Sen announced a temporary moratorium on granting new ELCs and review of all existing ones.

To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at [email protected]

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