At least 16 more families that have been locked in a bitter and lengthy dispute with the municipal government over land in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak neighborhood accepted municipal governor Pa Socheatvong’s offer of a land swap Thursday morning.
Some 650 Boeng Kak families were given land titles in 2012 after Prime Minister Hun Sen intervened in the dispute to cut 12.44 hectares out of a roughly 130-hectare area the city had granted to CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin for a high-end real estate project. Dozens of neighborhood families were left out of the deal, however, and have been protesting for inclusion since.
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said Thursday that the families that were promised titles Thursday were all from the west side of the neighborhood, in Village 1, and would each receive a 64-square-meter plot. He said most of the new plots would be located on the east side of the neighborhood, south of the local mosque.
“The people who live along the railroad track were happy to accept the governor’s offer of a land title for…64 square meters. But there are still seven families [in the village] who did not accept,” he said.
As for the seven holdouts, Mr. Dimanche said Mr. Socheatvong did not know what more he could offer them.
“The governor has run out of solutions to this problem,” the spokesman said. “We do not know what more to do…. They demand too much.”
Ly Chana said her family was among the seven that refused the offer, which she said was made to 29 Village 1 families in all.
“We cannot accept City Hall’s offer because it is not fair for us, because our land is big but they want to give us a little,” she said. “We have 3,000 square meters, but City Hall offered us only 288 square meters; it’s not a fair deal.”
Ms. Chana said she would accept nothing less than 70 percent of what she has now.
Chan Puthisak, however, said his family had agreed to give up its 70 square meters for the offered 64 and knew of 15 other families that had done the same.
“We accepted the offer because it’s a reasonable swap, because we can stay in Boeng Kak and because we want to end this chronic dispute,” he said. “It’s good that we reached a solution; we have been waiting for this for so long.”
Some 3,000 families were forcibly evicted from Boeng Kak after the city leased the area to Mr. Meng Khin in 2007. They received apartments on the outskirts of Phnom Penh or an $8,500 payout, neither of which, they said, made up for the loss of their old homes.