PHNOM PENH —
Security forces razed some 300 cottages of villagers in two provinces Wednesday, lighting them on fire and kicking out their occupants in reserved forest areas.
About 200 cottages in a forest of Snuol district, Kratie province, and 100 more in Veal Veng, Pursat province were burned.
“The authorities set fire to and completely destroyed our houses,” Sor Mom, 45, from Snuol, told VOA Khmer. “Event pregnant women and people in the middle of eating rice were forced to leave.”
Sor Mom moved to the area in 2011, because her family had little to eat elsewhere and few alternatives. Now they are out of their home, she said.
Ousted villagers said they had little choice but to build their homes in the forested areas, which are technically under state protection.
Local officials said the operations were undertaken because the homes in the forests were built there illegally.
However, Heng Peareak, a human rights worker for Adhoc in Kratie province, said the authorities acted without providing alternatives for the impoverished families. Local officials could give the families “social land concessions” at another site, where they could live and farm, he said.