70 Homes in Way of Future Bridge: Officials

Construction of a $42-million bridge across the Tonle Sap river in Russei Keo district’s Svay Pak commune necessitates that more than 70 families living along the road running over Kob Srov dam move their homes, Phnom Penh municipal officials said.

A May 21 statement, signed by Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema, called for the families to move away from the road, saying that they had first been notified Sept 10, 2007 that the road would be widened to make way for traffic coming off the bridge.

The villagers were asked at that time to move their houses back but have not heeded the directive, the statement added.

“We hope after this last informing that all the people will move their houses back by May 29,” the statement said, adding: “The strictest of action will be taken on those who resist.”

Villagers in Lar Kambor village Sunday afternoon admitted that they had been previously notified about the construction project, but said they had also been promised compensation, and would protest the Thursday deadline until they received their money.

Chea Vanna, 45 and mother of two, said that villagers sent a formal request for compensation to municipal officials in February but never received a response. She then learned of the May 29 deadline through a television broadcast.

“No one came here to inform us,” she said, adding that she would agree to move her house back onto the water behind her home if the government provided $100 per square meter in compensation for her land.

“Land prices are very high. I have no choice but to live in the water,” she said.

Hong Sreymom, 30, said she would lose all her land if forced to move, and refuses to do so unless properly compensated. In the meantime, she said she has taken all her valuables to a relative’s house in anticipation of a confrontation with authorities come May 29.

“I am very scared of eviction,” she said.

Municipal Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong said by telephone Sunday that the municipality does not need to compensate the villagers, as they are merely squatting on land already owned by the state.

“We do not take their land,” he said, adding that the bridge will ultimately facilitate the travel of hundreds of thousands of people.

Pa Socheatvong said the municipality would seek legal recourse with resistant villagers. “We will follow the law to resolve the problem,” he said, declining to elaborate.

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