On 27 April at around 6:30 morning, 35 provincial environmental officials led by a deputy director of the Phnom Prech Wildlife Sanctuary and equipped with 7 firearms, set fire to the house and properties of a Bunong member Mev Ku situated in Laoka village, Sokhdom commune, Senmonorum city, Mondulkiri. The action was done for the reason that the family had illegally encroached on the area of the Phnom Prech Wildlife Sanctuary.
In the operation, 2 members of the family and other villagers were not allowed to take the properties out the ablaze house, and they were just ordered to stand beside and painfully watch their house burned down.
On 22 April, Mev Ku and his wife were informed by the commune authority to dismantle their house without showing a court warrant or any official letter.
Land Use Background
Bunong families have been traditionally using this land for generations, yet the farming activities only started in 1994. In 2009 Mr. Mev Ku started expanding his farming.
Realizing that their land parcels overlap part of the Wildlife Sanctuary, 224 families represented by Mr. Phloek Mal, on February 10, 2011, submitted an official letter to the provincial governor to request 2,990 hectares of land for cultivation on the land used for generations as there is nowhere else better than their above-mentioned requested land.
In April 2011, provincial governor Chan Yoeun ordered his officials to conduct a study on the land. According to the direct order of Minister of Environment H.E. Mok Mareth, the community members asked for the establishment of a working group on “Land Adjudication” on July 21, 2012, and at the time, the provincial Department of Environment and Wildlife Sanctuary office of Phnom Prech had decided to give 450 hectares of land to the community for cultivation.
Alike other families, Mr. Mev Ku has cultivated the land and built his house 30 meters away from his farming area.