Koh Kong provincial authorities on Monday ordered 40 families living in Botum Sakor district to vacate their land and homes after it was determined they were illegally occupying a national park. On Friday, authorities went to inspect Botum Sakor National Park and found 40 families living there illegally in Andoung Toek commune. The land is earmarked for conservation only.
Meas Sem, 43, one of the villagers, said the families moved there not long ago because they had nowhere else to farm and support their families.
He noted that they were not harming the park’s environment. “Even though the authorities are asking us to move out, we will not move,” he said.
“We stay there because we have no other land for living or farming on to support our families.”
Sam Thoeun, 42, another villager, said locals have asked the authorities to find them a social land concession to move to before forcing them out of the park.
“If the authorities are going to force us out, we want them to find another place for us first because we are poor and need somewhere to live,” he said. Eung Vuthny, director of Botum Sakor National Park, said the park is for conservation, not agriculture or residential purposes. “They are living in the national park illegally,” he said. He noted that the families have not yet left and that authorities may be forced to take further action soon.