It was quiet after the storm Tuesday for the once picturesque fishing village located at the end of
Sihanoukville’s O’Chheuteal beach, said Chhim Savuth, a Cambodian Center for Human Rights
Bulldozers had leveled everything in sight Sunday and Monday, except one restaurant that was burned to the ground, and the 24 families with homes and shops there had packed up their belongings and left.
“It’s calm,” Chhim Savuth said by telephone Tuesday, adding that the evicted families had received compensation deals ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.
Officials and witnesses said that around 30 guards accompanied by well-known Cambodian-American lawyer David Chanaiwa, also an assistant to Senate and CPP President Chea Sim, had arrived at the village at 11 pm Saturday with one bulldozer. The villagers were told they needed to vacate their premises to make way for a road along the beach, according to witnesses.
Watching as bulldozers started flattening their homes and businesses Sunday, the families retreated to sleep in the sand or on boats while one restaurant blazed on Sunday night.
Khuon Sarun, chief of Mittapheap district’s Commune 4, said the situation had resolved itself Monday.
“Everything was OK because compensation was made already…. David Chanaiwa will develop the area into a public garden,” Khuon Sarun said, adding that she did not have exact details about development plans.
Several calls to David Chanaiwa’s phone went unanswered Tuesday.
Sihanoukville Municipal Governor Say Hak said the municipality had nothing to do with the eviction.
“We, as municipal authorities, dared not to interfere in this eviction…. I cannot handle it. It is above my capacity,” Say Hak said by telephone Monday. He also claimed that the 13 hectares surrounding the flattened village were owned by the Royal Palace.
David Chanaiwa has a residence under construction near the site of the eviction, Say Hak said.
“I would like to meet David face to face about his building and what he wants to do with the royal land,” he said. “We did not give any permission to David to build his house. Please Royal Palace officials visit this location to see David,” Say Hak said.
Licadho Coordinator Bun Narith said that a foreign man who ran the restaurant that burned down had been detained by police, allegedly for starting the fire in protest for not receiving compensation for his eviction.
Sihanoukville Police Chief Tak Vanntha said the foreigner—whose name and nationality he could not recall—rented the restaurant and therefore did not receive the compensation that had been paid to the owner. He said the foreigner did not confess to lighting the fire and was released by police Monday morning.
Khim Chiev, 60, said he wanted more than the $2,500 he received Tuesday morning for his 5-by-10 meter wooden house.
“My house was completely destroyed,” he said, adding that he didn’t know why authorities needed to expand the road as the existing one was in fine condition. (Additional reporting by Emily Lodish and Ida Arnesson in Sihanoukville)