OVER 250 families living near Preah Vihear temple say they will ignore an eviction deadline set for next week, claiming a proposed relocation site is strewn with landmines.
In an announcement dated Sunday and written by Sok Hay, governor of Preah Vihear province’s Choam Ksan district, 253 families in Kantuot commune’s Svay Chrum village were ordered to vacate their homes within seven days.
The families have been promised 50 by 100 metre plots in nearby Thamacheat Samdech Techo Village, or Samdech Techo Nature Village. The village has taken in hundreds of other families who have been moved to make way for development at Preah Vihear temple, which was enshrined as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008.
“This place has no road and it is full of mines,” Svay Chrum resident Sao Yath said. “We are very disappointed that they are trying to confiscate our land and force us to settle in a new place.”
Svay Chrum village sits roughly 12 kilometres from the temple. Sok Hay’s letter said that if the villagers do not leave voluntarily by next week’s deadline, they will be removed by local authorities and the government will not be liable for any property lost.
Kim Sophy, 38, another Svay Chrum resident, said that in addition to concerns about the relocation site, villagers were suspicious of the local officials who had ordered the move.
“We will continue to stay here unless Prime Minister Hun Sen announces publicly that we must leave,” she said.
Hang Soth, secretary general of the Preah Vihear National Authority, said the villagers were being needlessly obstinate.
“Why don’t they believe the government’s letter? It is an official letter,” he said.
“There is no need to write about these people because they are living apart from civilisation,” he advised a reporter.