Residents Protest Land Privatization Plans

About 50 residents of Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changva district demonstrated Thursday outside the National Assembly, Interior Ministry and Senate, submitting a petition to all three bodies protesting the privatization of land they are living on for a development project.

Last week, City Hall announced plans to privatize 280 hectares of public land in the district that has been set aside for a $3 billion satellite city being constructed by the Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation.

A community leader speaks through a megaphone near the National Assembly during a protest against the proposed privatization of 280 hectares of land in Phnom Penh's Chroy Changva district. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
A community leader speaks through a megaphone near the National Assembly during a protest against the proposed privatization of 280 hectares of land in Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changva district. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Representatives of six villages whose residents risk being evicted to make way for the project took part in Thursday’s protest, which began at around 8 a.m. outside the National Assembly.

“The petition to the National Assembly, Interior Ministry and Senate was made to call for intervention, to prevent City Hall from privatizing our land,” said Chea Sophat, one of the community representatives leading the demonstration. “What are their rights to take our land?”

Sia Phearum, director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said the municipality’s plans for Chroy Changva had parallels with the city’s privatization of Boeng Kak lake in 2007, a move that led to thousands of forced evictions and disputes that continue to this day.

“It will suffer the same fate as Boeng Kak, when the government wanted to develop that land,” Mr. Phearum said.

“There is no law in place preventing the privatization of public state land by the government,” he added. “But if they really need it they must find a solution and compensation for the villagers.”

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said a committee had been formed to resolve disputes with villagers over the privatization of the land on Chroy Changva.

“What are their claims to consider the land theirs?” he said.

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