Pha Lina/ Phnom Penh Post
Villagers from Svay Chrum village in Preah Vihear province hold signs displaying their demolished homes yesterday during a protest at Wat Botum in Phnom Penh.
More than 50 villagers from Preah Vihear’s Svay Chrum village gathered in protest for the second time in two weeks at the capital’s Wat Botum pagoda yesterday to urge Prime Minister Hun Sen to intervene in an ongoing land dispute with provincial authorities.
In late December, the National Authority of Preah Vihear began destroying homes in the Choam Ksan district to create space for government offices.
Residents in the area have been forced to move to a nearby
village, which they claim lacks basic infrastructure.
Yesterday, the villagers gathered with several banners and photos of their homes being destroyed by authorities.
A protestor at the pagoda, 32-year-old Khieu Bun Thoeun, said provincial security forces threatened Svay Chrum villagers when they attempted to return to their homes after they were dismantled.
“The villagers cried tears, then they were banned from the area. If the villagers dared to go [back to their homes] they would be shot. The bulldozed everything, not even one tree was left standing. I believed their threats,” he said.
Villagers submitted a letter to the Prime Minister’s cabinet last Friday asking for the “right to live in Svay Chrum village forever”. Cabinet members responded by sending a short letter to members of the Preah Vihear provincial government, asking them to “examine the case of Svay Chrum villagers”.
Yesterday, villagers submitted another letter to the Prime Minister’s cabinet reiterating their plea for intervention.
“Some soldiers seized valuable materials belonging to villagers.... [They also] removed the Svay Chrum pagoda gate along with the foundation in order to bury the evidence. This is a brutal act and an abuse of the rights of the weak,” the letter states.
After receiving the letter, cabinet member Kong Cham Roeun gave the villagers a letter that urged them to settle with the Preah Vihear authorities and promised there would be a new discussion concerning their second letter.
Preah Vihear provincial governor Om Mara confirmed that local officials had received the letter and were “preparing a letter of explanation and will send it to the cabinet soon”.