PHNOM PENH —
Nearly 70 families who are embroiled in a land dispute in Pursat province were dispersed by police outside the provincial court Tuesday, where they had been staying for about a week.
They had been sitting outside the court in protest of a loss of land the arrest of one member of their community, after about 400 cottages in Snuol district, Pursat, were set afire by security forces Feb. 12.
The families moved a few kilometers outside of town, where they said they would encamp on an empty plot of land.
“We’ve decided to stay here no matter what, even if they force us to move on,” said Leang Chhai Leng, a 43-year-old protester. “A few of us are unconscious, and the small children can’t walk any further. We have not had baths for three days and are only living on food and water donated by local organizations and other people.”
Local officials say the families had set up their homes illegally, on government land, leaving them no choice but to evict them.
Chhe Chhiv, the district governor of Veal Veng, said the families were provided social land concessions, but they returned to the illegal plots.
The families say the concession plots of land had no water and were too dry for farming, forcing them to return to their old homes.
Mit Samoun, a human rights worker for Licadho in Pursat province, said the authorities had made a mistake in forcing the families off their land. “Their houses were burned and they were banned from returning, so where can they go?’