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Preah Vihear evictees demand land years after village razed

Villagers petition the premier in March asking for a resolution to their land dispute in Preah Vihear province. The villagers returned to the capital on Monday seeking the Land Management Ministry’s intervention in the case.
Villagers petition the premier in March asking for a resolution to their land dispute in Preah Vihear province. The villagers returned to the capital on Monday seeking the Land Management Ministry’s intervention in the case. Sreng Meng Srun

Preah Vihear evictees demand land years after village razed

Around 50 representatives from Preah Vihear’s Choam Ksan district on Monday petitioned the Land Management Ministry for a solution after the razing of their village in 2012, which was allegedly taken over by a committee overseeing the nearby Preah Vihear temple and CPP lawmaker Suos Yara.

The group had previously petitioned Prime Minister Hun Sen in March alleging that Yara and Choch Phoeun, who heads the National Authority for Preah Vihear, oversaw the demolition of their village because it was part of the Unesco heritage site.

The petition asks for the Land Management Ministry to return the villagers’ land, which had been seized by local authorities under the protection of armed forces. Villagers were offered alternative housing and compensation but rejected it because it was too far away and did not come with farmland.

Phan Theoun, who represents around 250 villagers, said the group had been approaching national and provincial authorities for a solution but to no avail. “The words of senior [Phnom Penh] officials seem to be meaningless for the governor of Preah Vihear and other relevant officials; what do we hope for?” Theoun said.

An official from the ministry, who refused to give his name, said that the petition would be handed over to the relevant authorities for further processing.

CPP lawmaker Yara said that the group was being manipulated to make the complaints but did not divulge who the “corrupt people” behind the purported manipulation were.

“For me, I’m not involved in the land because it’s public land of the state, and all Cambodians love the temple of Preah Vihear,” he said.

Preah Vihear Governor Un Chanda could not be reached.

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