Sub-decree could back evicted villagers’ claims

Source: Phnom Penh Post |Wed, 19 October 2016, by and

ethnic_kuoy_families_from_preah_vihear_province_protest_at_the_ohchr_office_in_phnom_penh_yesterday_after_they_were_violently_evicted_from_their_homes_earlier_this_month_18_10_2016_supplied

Kuoy families from Preah Vihear protest their evictions at the capital’s OHCHR yesterday. Photo supplied

A little-publicized sub-decree signed in July and discovered by the Post yesterday in an NGO database raises questions as to whether the eviction on Saturday of six ethnic Kuoy families in Preah Vihear was in contravention of an order by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

On Saturday, provincial police, military police and Forestry Administration officials carried out what eyewitnesses have described as a violent eviction of six families from Bos Thom village in Tbeng Meanchey district’s Brame commune. The village sits in the middle of five economic land concessions held by subsidiaries of Chinese sugar manufacturer Rui Feng.

The evictions, however, appear to be in contravention of Sub-Decree 154, signed by Hun Sen on July 18, ordering that several hundred hectares be returned to the state by Rui Feng subsidiary Lan Feng to be allocated to ethnic Kuoy families living in Bos Thom and Sre Peng villages.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday that if the sub-decree indeed invovled the six families’ land, unless an overriding sub-decree had been issued subsequently, those responsible for the evictions could find themselves in jail.

“Whoever abused the sub-decree would be jailed; I just want to make sure that this sub-decree has not been cancelled by another sub-decree,” said Siphan, who as of press time said he was still waiting for confirmation as to whether there had been a second prime ministerial order.

Project coordinator for the Cambodian Indigenous Youth Association Ngach Samin was with Kuoy families from Bos Thom as they lodged a complaint over their treatment with UN rights envoy Rhona Smith in Phnom Penh yesterday.

Samin said that prior to reading the three-month-old sub-decree to the families, they had been totally unaware that hectares of land had been returned to their community.

The sub-decree does not provide specific coordinates for the land in question, saying only that it is Bos Thom village, but both Brame commune chief Meach Sarng and provincial spokesman You Yin confirmed that the evicted families had been living in Bos Thom.

However, Provincial Governor Oun Chenda said on Monday that the evictees’ homes were built on land belonging to neighbouring Chheb district authorities. His claim was seconded by Chheb district chief Sok Sordara, who said they were in fact living in M’lou Prey commune’s Porteab village.

“What the commune chief said is not true; we have the law and the GPS . . . We are going to develop a village [in Porteab]” Sordara said, adding that alternative housing would be provided to those displaced.

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