Authorities in northwestern Cambodia’s Battambang province have evicted 13 families for illegally inhabiting community land, ransacking their homes and destroying their property in the process, officials at two domestic rights groups said Tuesday.
About 30 officials forced the families out of their homes in Boeung Ampil village, Sdao commune, in the province’s Rattanak Mondul district on Feb. 2, leaving them homeless and offering them no compensation, officials from Adhoc and Licadho said.
The families had lived on the land for more than a decade, they said. And because they no longer have homes, their ability to earn a living has been affected as well.
Yin Mengly, Adhoc’s coordinator in Battambang province, told RFA’s Khmer Service that no matter whether the families had lived in their homes legally or illegally, authorities should not have expelled them without compensation.
“So, the accusations by authorities that people are deliberately living on community land are just a pretext for them to take the land and sell it to someone for their own interests,” he said.
Dieb Phal, the villagers’ representative in Sdao commune, complained about the government-ordered ransacking and evictions, adding that he had lived on the land since 2000.
“I only need justice like other people, because authorities have removed us from our homes, like robbers stealing villagers’ property,” he said.
Ser Sameth, chief of Rattanak Mondul district, said authorities had instructed the 13 families to move out many times before because they were living illegally on prohibited land, but they did not comply.
“This case has been processed and is now out of my jurisdiction because I have sent it to the forestry administration to resolve,” he told RFA. The district forestry administration oversees issues involving community land.
Although the families have asked district authorities to find other places for them to live or pay appropriate compensation, local government officials have yet to take action, he said.
Adhoc’s office in Battambang submitted a letter requesting that provincial officials intervene in the matter and ensure that the families are compensated accordingly.
In response, Chan Sophal, governor of Battambang province, said he had already contacted relevant officials to help the evicted villagers.
Reported by Hour Hum for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Pagnawath Khun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.