New Kompong Thom Governor Vows to Give Land to Evictees

The newly appointed Kompong Thom provincial governor on Tuesday promised more than 500 families who were forcefully evicted by a Vietnamese rubber plantation more than three years ago that they would be given replacement land to farm on early next month.

Security forces evicted villagers from Santuk district’s Kraya commune in December 2009 to make way for the Tan Bien-Kompong Thom Rubber Development Company, which was granted an 8,100-hectare land concession in the area. For the past three years, the families have been living at a relocation site with no farmland, about 5 km away.

Provincial governor Uth Sam On, who was sworn into office Monday, said that the families would now be given an additional 1- to 1.5-hectares of farmland each in a separate nearby location.

“By the end of May or beginning of June, the land will reach them,” he said.

“They have met a lot of difficulties in their lives and especially the older people and the disabled people,” Mr. Sam On added. “We were working hard to find the land for them, but some areas affected other families.”

Sam Bunthoeun, 43, one of the evicted villagers, said he did not see his family’s name on a list posted by local authorities and that he had already reported this to his village chief.

“We have a hard life here [at the relocation site] because we don’t have land to plant crops. We work as laborers at the Vietnamese rubber plantation but it cannot fully support our families as we don’t get daily work,” Mr. Bunthoeun said.

Food shortage is a major problem for the evicted villagers, said Nhem Sarath, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc. “This matter caused by the provincial authorities, for not helping the villagers on time, has caused them food shortage and some families have moved away,” he said.

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