The Pursat Provincial Administration has issued clarification regarding media coverage of the alleged impending eviction of 30 veterans’ families.
A December 30 video report claimed that the families in Thma Da commune’s Ekpheap village of Veal Veng district have lived on the land for many years, but were evicted to make way for the construction of a national road.
Poeun Pek appeared in the report, saying her family was evicted to make way for the road.
“We struggled to live in such a remote place when there was no road. Now they are building one and they want to move us to somewhere even more remote. We are not leaving – we just want to clear some land so we can farm for ourselves,” she said.
Another resident, Seng Hoeun, explained that her family depended on the land to provide their livelihoods.
“It is not a large plot of land, but it is enough for me to feed my children,” she said in the video.
The provincial administration issued a statement claiming that the families had appealed to provincial governor Khoy Rida for permission to remain on the land. The governor had heard their requests and had explained the legal issues with what they had proposed.
“The proposed location is in the Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary Natural Reserve, where all development is banned by the Ministry of Environment. In addition, it is far from any schools, health centres or public services,” it read.
“It is true that some of the families are veterans, but others are relative newcomers,” it added.
“The area has been preserved as an ecotourism site in accordance with the recommendations of Prime Minister Hun Sen, and these families only arrived in 2019 – they have been warned and asked to move on many times,” it continued.
The administration said the families had built their homes and cleared some of the land during the Covid-19 lockdowns, when patrols were restricted. In addition, most of the land has been designated as essential for the vital infrastructure project of National Road 55, or already home to high-voltage power lines.
“Their encroachment of the sanctuary was detrimental to the common interests of the Kingdom’s people. Despite this, they had asked to be awarded land titles on protected land, where such titles cannot be issued,” said the statement.
In accordance with the government’s dedication to the welfare of its citizens, the provincial administration said it was examining the possibility of finding a suitable location for the families to settle.