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Preah Vihear villagers say they will not move

Preah Vihear villagers say they will not move

Villagers will defy a third order to vacate their houses in Preah Vihear province to make way for a government office and told the Post yesterday that forced removal would result in violent clashes.

The National Authority for Preah Vihear yesterday ordered 132 families in Svay Chum village, Kantuot commune, Choam Ksan district, to leave their houses by next Wednesday.

Lor Chan, a coordinator for human rights group Adhoc, said the villagers had been told on December 15 to resettle in Samdech Techo natural village, but had refused to leave their homes.

An initial order to leave – coming after a new royal decree dated December 10, 2011 – had also been defied because the decree was not legitimate, he said.

“The new royal decree to which the National Authority for Preah Vihear referred to was not signed by the King and was not copied to the Prime Minister,” Lor Chan said.

Village representative Phan Phoeun said the families stood firm in opposition to their eviction as they believed they had the right to stay.

“We have lived in the village more than 10 years, growing all kinds of fruit crops. The new place, a remote area in the forest far from the national road, is very difficult to live in,” Phan Phoeun said.

Svay Chrum villager Sao Yath said all villagers had submitted a letter to the provincial court on Monday calling for urgent intervention. “If there is [forced] removal, there will be a violent clash. The villagers will protest without withdrawal. Some who went to live in the new area came back because it was very hard,” he said.

Hang Soth, the general director for the National Authority for Preah Vihear, said the decision to resettle Samdech Techo had been made according to a request from UNESCO and the royal decree.

“The authority needs the Svay Chum village area to build an office and a tree seedling ground,” he said.

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