Representatives of 253 evicted families from Svay Chrum village in Preah Vihear province yesterday gathered at the Land Management Ministry in Phnom Penh to once again petition authorities to resolve an ongoing land dispute that has affected their way of life.
Phan Thoeun, one of the representatives, said that residents returned after multiple previous petitions failed to get the attention of authorities and allow them to return to live on their 3,353 hectares of land in Svay Chrom village after they were evicted in 2012
“If there’s no solution, the people will still continue to protest because this is an injustice,” he said. “We demand justice, we lost our homes and farm land, and now we have no place to live and are facing difficulties every day.”
Mr Dara, an administrative officer at the Land Management Ministry who refused to give his full name, accepted the new petition and said he would bring it to the attention of high-ranking ministry officials to check and resolve the issue.
Un Chanda, Preah Vihear provincial governor, and deputy governor Sou Serey could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Preah Vihear provincial authorities and the National Authority in Preah Vihear in the past issued a joint statement declaring that the government established a national working group which resulted in the decision to evict residents from what is now designated as a temple area.
According to the statement, villagers were supposed to be resettled at a new location called Phum Thomacheat Samdech Techo in Choam Ksan district. Additionally, they said that the government provided $500 in compensation to 1,045 families, a plot of land to build houses with two hectares of farming land, and building materials.
However, these residents said that they refused the relocation and compensation because Choam Ksan district was located too far away from Svay Chrum village. Many residents who refused the government programme are now living with relatives and are in limbo.
Many residents blamed Suos Yara, a CPP lawmaker, for being involved in the land grab in 2012. Mr Yara responded by saying that the authorities already solved the problem and that the government designated the 3,353 hectares of land in Svay Chrum village as part of the Preah Vihear Temple protected area.
Last month, the same villagers submitted a petition at the Interior Ministry, requesting that resolution of their land dispute be expedited. They also submitted petitions at national institutions such as the National Assembly and the cabinet of Prime Minister Hun Sen.