A Change of Guard

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Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Kampot villagers accuse soldiers of torching 11 villagers' homes

Badge of Hun Sen's Bodyguard Unit.

07 January 2008By Sophorn Radio Free Asia

Translated from Khmer by Heng Soy

Local villagers from Anlong Krom, Ta Ken commune, Kampot province, have accused soldiers protecting development lands used as a nursery plantation belonging to Prime minister Hun Sen, of torching down 11 of their homes, instilling fear among the villagers, and causing them to lose shelters.Chin Aun, an Anlong Krom villager, Ta Ken commune, Chhouk district, told RFA in the afternoon of 06 January that a group of soldiers, known as belonging to Unit 33, who are protecting development lands used as a nursery plantation belonging to Prime minister Hun Sen, sneaked in to torch down his house, while he was away borrowing rice from his neighbors.Chin Aun said: “I went to look and borrow 2 kilos of rice, when I got back home, it was all burnt down to the ground, both the front one and the back one, the soldiers were standing there under the tree shade.”Chron Try, the second Ta Ken commune councilor, indicated in the afternoon of 06 January that more than 10 homes in Anlong Krom villages were torched and destroyed. He suspects the group of soldiers based in this area as the perpetrators, because they used to come and chase the villagers out of their village several times already.Chron Try indicated: “They torched more than 10 houses. The soldiers from Unit 31 or 33 who are protecting the company (established) here.”Uch Bun Thoeun, the deputy district governor, said that regarding the torching of the villagers’ homes, he is not sure if the torching really took place or not, maybe the villagers were moving out their houses only, he will investigate these cases.He also provide a number of explanations: “The villagers who lived there, I can’t say if they have to move out or not, we will do our research and find out since when they really live there. If they live there for a long time already and they are settled there, they own the land there, they grow their crops there, how could we chase them out? Surrounding this development lands, there are several families living there, there are more than 200 of families.”On 29 December 2007, a group of soldiers brought in a piece of machinery to clear 6-hectare of lands in the Anlong Krom village, to turn them into a development zone used as a plant nursery for Prime minister Hun Sen. The land clearing affected 26 families, and the soldiers then used violence causing 3 injuries among the villagers, among whom was a woman who miscarried her child during the violence.Recently, it is observed that Prime minister Hun Sen’s bodyguards have grabbed lands belonging to local people in Ratanakiri province. According to NGO officials, the majority of land of disputes stem from land-grabbing perpetrated by armed government officials, and by high-ranking government officials.

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