Villagers from Kantuot Commune, Preah Vihear Province, Promised Action after Delivering Petition to Prime Minister

On 09 October 2012 villagers from Kantuot Commune, Choam Ksan District, Preah Vihear Province handed a petition to cabinet official Nov Ra, alleging repeated land grabs, violence and intimidation at a Social Land Concession (SLC) granted to one star General, Pen Lim in 2007. On 10 October 2012, Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly called for General Pen Lim’s arrest in relation to the SLC at a land title ceremony in Kampot province.

The villagers also came to protest other land grabs in the area, claiming the involvement of other officials from the provincial government and the Ministry of Land.

The petition relates specifically to the following allegations:

  • 6 families forcibly evicted by officials from the Ministry of Land in 2004, purportedly to build a provincial market. No market has been built but villagers claim the land has been re-sold;
  • 84 families’ land taken by General Pen Lim in 2007. The land was not part of the original SLC area but was grabbed illegally and the villagers’ houses burnt down in order to be sold to 319 families, some of whom have since re-sold the land;
  • 13 families were forcibly evicted from their land in 2010 in a land grab they claim was for HE Sor Thavy, Deputy Provincial Governor; and a Mr. Vuth Dara.

Villagers from Kantuot commune visit ADHOC's Phnom Penh office after protesting delivering petition to Nov Ra

These cases, which have continually been ignored by officials, were taken up by ADHOC. ADHOC visited the commune and advised villagers on how take their complaint to the authorities. After the villagers gathered to protest outside the house of Prime Minister Hun Sen on October 09 2012, Mr. Nov Ra has promised that somebody will be sent to resolve the complaint on October 19 2012.

Pen Lim and the ‘SLC’

In 2007 the Cambodian government granted 556 hectares of land to the Drugs and Aids Research and Prevention Organisation (DARPO), a now-defunct NGO headed by General Pen Lim, though people already lived on the plot and complain that they were not adequately compensated for the land taken.

Villagers allege that the land, intended to be distributed for poor people suffering from drug dependency and/or HIV/Aids, was instead sold for a profit.

The conditions in Kantuot commune were reportedly very harsh: people were left without adequate access to sanitation, clean water or health facilities.  When ADHOC visited in 2010 it found that General Pen Lim had built a school for in the commune but it was closed due to a lack of teachers. Villagers also allege that conditions could be brutal in the area, with people from DARPO demanding money and regularly intimidating and attacking them. In some cases villagers abandoned their land in order to escape these conditions, in which case the land was then re-sold to another buyer without compensation for the fleeing families.

One villager, Ms. Khim Khann, alleges that she was beaten by people working for General Pen Lim, leaving her disabled and having to walk on crutches. She also claimed these people raped her then 13 year-old daughter and stole around $1700 from her, before burning down her house and reselling the plot.

Ms Khin Khann and her daughter.

ADHOC urges the Cambodian government to act on behalf of these villagers and keep its promise to find a resolution to their problems on October 19 2012. Land grabs and forced evictions are widespread and must be addressed – and those found guilty punished – in order for Cambodia to develop sustainably and peacefully. Moreover, allegations of violence, rape and intimidation at the hands of well-connected officials and ministers cannot be allowed to go uninvestigated if Cambodia is to respect its national and international human rights obligations.

 

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Ny Chakrya, Head of Section: 011 274 959 (Khmer, English)

Mr. Neil Loughlin, Technical Assistant: 092 648 318: loughlin.adhoc@gmail.com (English)

 

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