Around two dozen families in Siem Reap’s Run Ta Ek commune — soon to be the new home for evicted residents from the Angkor park — say the Apsara Authority took their farmland within the resettlement site and offered much smaller plots in return.
Siem Reap officials are either demolishing illegal constructions and add-ons to buildings inside the Angkor Archaeological Park or evicting residents who are living there and moving them around 20 kilometers to the Run Ta Ek Eco Village, which is land controlled by the Apsara Authority. Last week, Prime Minister Hun Sen promised building materials and cash for people voluntarily moving to the relocation site.
Around 23 families told VOD on Monday that authorities had taken around 82.5 hectares of their farmland from within the ecovillage and were now giving them 20 by 30 meter plots of land to build houses.
Hou Hom, who lives in Run Ta Ek and lost his farmland, said officials were refusing to consider the size of their existing land and giving them land at the same location but far smaller.
“Our land that is impacted is framing land starting from 1 hectare to 5 hectares. If we take the 20 by 30 meter plots, where can we farm anymore?” Hom said.
Houb Touch, 60, said his family had around 9 hectares of land in the ecovillage for decades and it was only in 2013 that authorities claimed it was state land.
The land was used for rearing animals and growing crops, he said, was critical to the family’s financial stability.
“I won’t demand anything. But if I have 2 hectares, please cut to the same size to continue our life. I won’t sell it but use it to make a living,” Touch said.
Soun Narin, a human rights officer with Adhoc, said the commune residents had soft titles for their land, which specified the size of their plots, and were living at that location for many years.
“There is the signature from the village chief as their land tenure. They demand the actual size that is on the paper but the [authorities] do not agree for the people,” Narin said.
Acting Banteay Srei district governor Phorn Sokhom and deputy provincial governor Khim Finan directed queries to the Apsara Authority. Long Kosal, who works for the Angkor development agency, could not be reached on Monday.
Chhun Im, the Run Ta Ek commune chief, said residents had the right to make their demand but authorities could not change the offer of 20 by 30 meter plots. She said she did not know how long the residents had used the land because she was a new commune chief.