Military and police officials dismantled 34 cottages and huts yesterday for being illegally built on state-owned land in Kampong Speu’s Oral district.
Bun Vichet, Oral’s deputy district governor, said villagers from Putrea, Doung and Tanil villages in Tasal commune had cut trees and burned grass on parts of a 10-hectare plot that authorities use as a dump site.
The villagers, he said, began building cottages and huts on Saturday. Vichet instructed a group of more than 30 police, military police and soldiers to intervene when they refused to leave.
“At first we talked to them, but they refused [to listen] and our force dismantled [the sheds] one by one,” he said.
The huts were built, Vichet said, just a few weeks after he had visited the commune to educate villagers to stop clearing forest land. He had instructed them to apply for land with the district authority if they did not have any, he said.
“The villagers claim that they do not have land to live on, but they actually do. They just want more land for their children,” Vichet said. He added that the villagers did not live in the sheds and returned to their homes every day.
The authorities believe that a broker had shown them the land, but the villagers deny this, Vichet said. No violence was reported yesterday.