Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Last of Mondulkiri commune gone

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Authorities in Mon­dulkiri province started tearing down the last of 195 houses claimed by villagers in Rayum commune at about 7am on Friday morning.

Three hours later, not one was standing.

Many villagers said they had no idea where they were going to live, and one man vowed to set up a tent for lack of any better options.

Authorities, who surrounded the village for a week, said the villagers’ homes sat on land belonging to a Vietnamese rubber company.

They had set a deadline for villagers to clear out by Friday or be forcibly cleared out.

Joint forces including military police and soldiers had already burned more than 50 homes on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Authorities said that villagers moved onto the land only after it was granted to three similarly named Vietnamese rubber companies.

However, official documents show that the 28,000 hectares were given to one company called Pacific Pearl Joint-Stock Company in 2011, a violation of legal limits on the size of economic land concessions.

The joint forces used industrial logging saws to polish off the rest of the homes.

The Vietnamese company representative, who identified himself only as Mr Thy, said that the company has a concession from the government, and villagers were essentially squatters.

“Those villagers have no right to live on our land, and most of them are victims because they were cheated by a broker who sells company land to them at $1,000 per family.”

Pa Pheakey, 45, said no one spoke to her before tearing down her house.

Without a residence, she has to suspend plans for the future indefinitely.

“I hope that I can find land for my daughter, who just married, but now everything is not coming true.”

Nhoung Sameoun, 29, said that the reason villagers did not resist the operation was a fear of being arrested.

“Today, I will set up a blue tent and live in it temporarily, because I don’t know where I can go.”

Sok Sera, head of the joint committee and deputy chief of administration at Mondulkiri hall, said that he did not provide any compensation for those villagers because they are new migrants and they are living on company land.