Areng calls on governor to halt community centre’s removal

A still from a Mother Nature video in which Areng community members express their disagreement with orders for a community centre to be dismantled by April 25. Mother Nature
A still from a Mother Nature video in which Areng community members express their disagreement with orders for a community centre to be dismantled by April 25. Mother Nature

Members of the Areng community in Koh Kong are calling for the provincial governor’s intervention to halt an order from commune authorities to dismantle a community centre later this month.

In a video posted on the group Mother Nature’s Facebook page, activist Lim Kimsor and other villagers discuss the value of the centre, which was built in 2015, to the local community.

The video urges Governor Mithona Phouthorng to intervene to prevent commune authorities from forcing them to dismantle it by April 25 to make way for a new commune hall. The community centre is used for advocacy work, tourism and other purposes.

In the video, Kimsor asks the governor if she and other provincial officials are aware of the disagreement.

“Or perhaps you already know and are ignoring it on purpose in order to hinder the ability of the local communities to engage in advocacy, by scaring them and cutting off one of their sources of income?”

Phouthorng did not respond to requests for comment.

The centre has sparked controversy from the start, with commune councillor Ven Vorn convicted in 2016 of allegedly harvesting forest products illegally to build the structure, and with tampering with evidence that he had done so.

He was given a one-year sentence, with seven months suspended, with villagers alleging that he was targeted for having opposed a hydropower dam in the area.