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Official backtracks on arson threat

Official backtracks on arson threat

Mondulkiri deputy district governor denies threatening to raze villagers’ homes, but fears remain

AN official in Mondulkiri province has backed away from a threat to torch the homes of villagers resisting eviction from a gold-mining concession in Keo Seima district, but villagers said they were still concerned they would ultimately be forced from the site.

Last week, Len Vanna, the deputy district governor, told the Post that if villagers did not agree to tear down their homes, “we will burn them to the ground”.

When contacted Sunday, however, Len Vanna denied having ever threatened to burn the villagers’ dwellings.

Around 30 families in Keo Seima district face eviction after ignoring an order to vacate a concession to Australian mining company Oz Minerals.
During a June 13 meeting with the villagers, district authorities told them to dismantle their homes and relocate immediately or face harsh
reprisals.

I AM NOT AGAINST GOVERNMENT POLICY ... BUT THEY MUST PROVIDE COMPENSATION.

Despite Len Vanna’s reversal, villagers continued to express concerns about their future.
“I am worried about my home, because I heard a rumour that the authorities will burn it if I do not agree to tear my house down,” said Yor Noeun,
one of the residents who has refused to move from the land without proper compensation.

“We spent many years to save the money to construct the house. How can they order us to move without compensation? Where can we live if we move from here?”

Sok Seav, another Keo Seima resident, said she has lived in the community since 2006, well before the arrival of Oz Minerals.

“I am not against government policy to develop the area, but they must provide compensation, otherwise they may as well burn me with my house,” she said.

Sam Sarin, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said more research is needed to verify villagers’ claims, as most appear to be relative newcomers to Mondulkiri.

Oz Minerals, which began its operations in Cambodia in 2006, is also drilling for copper in Mondulkiri.

In March, the firm announced it had identified inferred resources of 605,000 ounces of gold from 8.1 million tonnes of ore at grades of 2.3 grams of gold per tonne at its Keo Seima concession.

Provincial governor Chan Yoeun and Sin Vannavuth, the governor of Keo Seima district, could not be reached for comment Sunday.

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