Phnom Penh municipal Governor Kep Chuktema and Canadia Bank officials met on Monday and agreed to file a court complaint against residents of Koh Pich, Sar Heng Van Sak, Deputy chief of Tonle Bassac Commune, said Tuesday.
Koh Pich residents have been embroiled in a fight over their land since City Hall issued an eviction order on Dec 6 that said they must leave their homes within 30 days.
Deputy Governor Pa Socheatevong said Tuesday that the complaint has not been filed but that “action will be taken according to the law” against those who do not vacate the island.
“Don’t forget [the villagers] live illegally. No one can have ownership,” he said.
Calls to Kep Chuktema and Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun were unsuccessful on Tuesday.
The Public Interest Legal Advocacy Project, which represents the villagers, said the municipality’s legal action would be counterproductive to the ongoing negotiations.
“We do not believe that such an action would be productive and remain committed to the negotiation process,” said PILAP technical adviser Brian Rohan.
Hampering the months of negotiations is a disagreement over the size of the land the villagers claim to own.
PILAP is questioning a land measurement report given to them by municipal officials on May 4.
“From PILAP’s perspective we have some genuine questions about government sponsored surveys on the island,” said PILAP lawyer Ouk Kimleng. “Therefore, we’re doing our own thing,” said PILAP lawyer Ouk Kimleng.
PILAP has hired a firm to conduct a survey of the land and has invited City Hall and Canadia Bank to participate.
“In a settlement like this, obviously the amount of land each of our clients owns is crucial to calculate compensation,” he said.