More than 60 wooden homes in Pursat province were burned to the ground Wednesday by officials in Veal Veng district, who claimed that the owners were living on state land, rights group Licadho said.
“On Wednesday morning, police, military police, RCAF soldiers and the deputy provincial prosecutor came to burn the houses of the people,” said Mit Samourn, Licadho’s monitor in Pursat.
Hundreds of villagers had lived on the land from 2007 to 2012, but were evicted by officials. Some of the villagers, however, moved back onto the land some time last year, Ms. Samourn said.
Pong Chansoyuthera, the deputy provincial prosecutor, said that the villagers had been warned to move off the land a number of times.
“They did not move so we came to remove their homes,” he said.
Ms. Samourn said authorities had forced her to delete photos she had taken of the eviction operation, and that she was escorted out of the burning village, in Krapoeu Pi commune, by military police.
“If the villagers are living on state land, then authorities need to move them to a social land concession,” she said, adding that a 40-year-old villager had been detained by soldiers during the operation and has yet to be released.
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