Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Villagers urged to accept fate

Villagers urged to accept fate

A villager from Preah Vihear province
A villager from Preah Vihear province points out examples of evictions on a protest poster yesterday during a demonstration in front of the National Assembly in Phnom Penh. Eli Meixler

Villagers urged to accept fate

Opposition lawmaker and head of the National Assembly’s human rights commission Eng Chhay Eang yesterday urged a community from Preah Vihear to stop protesting against their eviction and accept compensation.

Villagers from Choam Ksan district have been railing against the government’s decision to evict them from land, saying that the area would not be reclassified as a heritage site as promised but handed over to powerful individuals or private companies.

But Chhay Eang said the commission had investigated the case, including by visiting the site, and concluded that the concerns were unfounded.

“The authorities have not taken the land to rent or sell to any company. They’ve taken it for conservation purposes,” he said, adding that experts had found the 500-plus-hectare site to have cultural and historical significance.

“We ask people to stop protesting and to go to accept appropriate compensation from the government,” he said.

If he turned out to be wrong and the land was sold to individuals or companies, Chhay Eang added, he himself would lead protests demanding the land be returned to the roughly 250 families affected.
Villagers have been offered alternative land to farm and live on, he added.

“Let the [authorities] conserve [that area],” he said. “I told them to give them appropriate compensation.”

Any further protesting would be a waste of time, he added.

Villagers involved, however, did not agree that a solution was that simple.

“I absolutely will not accept compensation. I must take my land back,” said Sath Nget, 44, a representative of villagers from Kantuot commune. “The compensation is not appropriate, because my land is not a heritage site.”

Fellow representative Phan Phoeun, 41, said that the land was at risk of being seized for private use.

“People have lived there a long time. Why is it my land they are taking to preserve?” he said.

Lor Chan, investigator for human rights group Adhoc, urged the human rights commission to invite representatives from UNESCO to talk about the plan.

MOST VIEWED

  • US think tank warns of China's 'ulterior motives'

    A US think tank on Tuesday warned that spreading Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific follows a pattern of leveraging geopolitical influence at the expense of the nations receiving investment, including Cambodia. The report looks at a sample of 15 Chinese port development projects, noting that the

  • More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

    A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized by authorities in Mozambique late last week, according to the NGO Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES' information was based on a report from the

  • Defence Ministry denies weapons in smuggling case came from Cambodia

    After a Thai national was arrested last week for allegedly smuggling guns from Cambodia to Thailand, Cambodia's Defence Ministry has claimed the weapons seized during the arrest are not used in Cambodia, despite the fact that both types of rifle seized are commonly found in

  • Shipwreck found off coast of Koh Kong

    Royal Cambodian Navy researchers are working to identify a decades-old shipwreck found earlier this month off the coast of Koh Kong province. Divers found the 70-metre-long wreck on April 4 about a mile from Koh Chhlam island, according to Navy officials. Deputy Navy Commander Tea Sokha,