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More than 40 Banteay Meanchey houses demolished

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More than 40 Banteay Meanchey houses demolished

The forest protection community in Malai district’s Tuol Pongro commune in Banteay Meanchey province demolished more than 40 houses on Monday, claiming they had been constructed by a group of mostly migrant residents and that the houses encroached on their forest land.

Tuol Pongro commune forest protection community head San Sim told The Post on Tuesday that with the support of local authorities and Malai district joint armed forces units, his 100-strong community had demolished 43 secretly built houses.

“The zinc-roofed houses measure 4sqm and had zinc walls. The houses were constructed on our community forest land without permission. Their owners also cleared some other parts of our forest land,” Sim said.

He said that in early November while patrolling the area, he had spotted a few houses that had been constructed secretly and told the residents to demolish them.

In January and February this year, he said, the group of residents secretly rebuilt the houses – but this time there were as many as 20 properties.

He said he and the community then went in large numbers to report the find to the local authorities.

“The authorities’ slowness in responding to our requests to intervene enabled the migrant people to build more and more houses,” Sim said.

He said the Ministry of Environment ceded 500ha of land in April, 2003, to more than 1,000 families in five villages in Tuol Pongro commune – Banteay I, Koh Snuol, O’Ampil, Khla Ngoap and Tuol Pongro.

However, Hoem Yeun, a representative of the owners of the 43 houses, said the properties were not built on the ceded land and were not on protected forest land at all.

“The houses were constructed on the old base of Battalion Unit 671. In 1999, the government issued a Prakas ceding the old base’s land and forest land in the area covering 1,929ha to 233 families of veteran combatants to construct houses and make a living, ” Yeun said.

But Malai district governor Em Sokha said the documents mentioned by Yern were voided by the government in 2005.

“I don’t know whether they knew it or not when they continued to use the voided documents. The dismantling of their homes is lawful because they were built without legal authority on forest land belonging to the community,” he said.

Tuol Pongro commune chief Sim Morn told The Post on Tuesday that people who had built the houses came from places including Poipet city, Battambang province’s Bavel district and Pursat province’s Phnom Kravanh district.

“They were not local people from Tuol Pongro commune and they did not receive permission from the local authorities to build the houses,” he said.

On Tuesday some of the residents whose houses were dismantled were erecting tents in the disputed area.

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