Village Chief Fired After Participating in Angkor Relocation Site Protest

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A woman clears land in Siem Reap’s Run Ta Ek commune, a designated resettlement site for Angkor evictees, on October 8, 2022. (Hean Rangsey/VOD)

A village chief in Siem Reap province has been fired after he joined a protest with around 210 families protesting the use of their former farms to resettle Angkor evictees.

Penh Pren, a village chief in Balaing commune in Prasat Bakorng district, told VOD Thursday that he was removed from his position after attempting to protest overnight at Run Ta Ek relocation site earlier this week. Run Ta Ek is located about 25 km north of the park and is one of the sites tagged for resettling around 4,000 people who are being forced out.

The village chief claimed that in 2005, the Apsara Authority — which oversees the park — had taken villagers’ farmland and promised them between $500 to $700 in compensation per hectare. Now in 2022, villagers including him are still waiting for compensation and are outraged to see the same land promised to other people.

“I’ll tell you the truth. People were really disappointed after I was removed from my position, but for me, I’m not disappointed by those who removed me,” he said. “For the people, I am not scared, because they did nothing wrong, only those who encroach on people’s land and promised compensation for people.”

Sam Mom, a villager who joined the protest, said that Pren has always tried to protect the villagers in land disputes and that firing him was a threat to stop protesting the Apsara Authority’s decisions.

“He also has the land in the area. He tried to help people because people lost their land in Run Ta Ek and he wanted to help to get their farmland back,” Mom said.

Balaing commune chief Lem Nath said Pren was removed from the position for multiple “mistakes” dating back to when he assumed the role in 2019, accusing the village chief of taking people’s money and insulting monks and top leaders.

“He made a lot of mistakes in public service,” she said. “I received complaints from the villagers.”

After a Monday meeting with district officials about the conflict yielded no solution, one member each from about 200 families camped out at Run Ta Ek. Around 10 p.m. that night, they were ordered to leave or face removal by force.

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