The Sour Srun property development company claimed Thursday that it owns the land on which the 146 families of Group 78 live in Phnom Penh’s Tonle Bassac commune, and that the community must make way for a road.
“We have land titles dating from 1992 which prove that we own seven hectares of land around that area,” said Huy Chhor, an assistant to the Sour Srun Company.
The Group 78 families, many of whom have lived on the land since the early 1980s, received a third eviction notice last week from Phnom Penh Municipality informing them of the planned road. The road will link with a bridge to Koh Pich island where a massive, high-end private development is planned.
Huy Chhor added that Sour Srun gave a significant portion of Group 78’s land to the municipality to build the road, and it was now City Hall’s responsibility to evict the families.
“Those villagers settled anarchic houses on this land and are just street vendors,” he said. Sour Srun carried out the mass removal of hundreds of families from nearby Village 14 in June 2006, but municipal officials at the time assured Group 78 villagers that their land was safe.
“If this company really owned the land, why have they never told people who have lived there since 1983?” said Nuon Sokchea, an attorney with the Community Legal Education Center who is representing Group 78 villagers. “[Sour Srun] cannot use the power of City Hall to enforce their claim,” she said. “The court must decide on it.”
Mea Sopheap, deputy governor of Chamkar Mon district, supported Sour Srun’s ownership claim. “When the City wants to build a road on land, companies or individuals must give up that land,” he said.