Cham Families Agree to Move From Riverbank

More than 100 Cham families living in boats on the banks of Phnom Penh’s Chroy Chongva peninsula have agreed to relocate upriver after they celebrate the end of the holy month of Ramadan over the weekend, a community representative said on Friday.

Matt Kriya, a representative for the floating Cham community, said authorities had informed them they would be moved 500 meters north on the Tonle Sap river on Monday as a temporary solution to an order demanding their relocation.

The Cham community was told that they had to move from the vicinity of the site of the future Sok­ha Hotel as part of “beautification” efforts in the area.

“We accept the latest solution from the authority,” Mr. Kriya said. “But the community still needs le­gal documents. Otherwise, we will be evicted again, or be accused of living at a wrong location.”

On Aug. 10, 20 armed police officers came to the peninsula and told the Muslim families—who live and work on their fishing boats—to move, citing the need to beautify the area around the hotel. However, when the families protested, authorities agreed to allow the families to stay until the end of Ramadan.

Chroy Chongva commune chief Chao Sidorn said that authorities were currently working out how to properly relocate the families, but that nothing had yet been decided.

“We are thinking about a new strategy for the community,” Mr. Sidorn said. “We just found a temporary place for them for a while,” he added, referring to the location on the river 500 meters from where the community is currently docked.

Mr. Sidorn also said that the families might be eligible for compensation, though he did not specify how much money they would receive.

“First, we can listen to their re­quests; we need to know what they want [for compensation],” he said. Still, he insisted that the boats were illegally anchored on the banks of the river. “No one can own a river, it is state property,” he said.

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