Council of Ministers OKs Koh Pich Evictions

The Council of Ministers has issued a letter authorizing the Phnom Penh Municipality to use force to remove 27 families living on Koh Pich, the disputed island op­posite the NagaCorp Casino, a senior municipal official said Mon­­­day.

Deputy Municipal Governor Pa Socheatavong said the letter was issued shortly before the Water Fes­tival, which began on Nov 15.

“It is a letter authorizing the right to use force to solve the is­sue,” Pa Socheatavong said, ad­ding the letter was issued shortly be­fore the Water Festival, which began Nov 15.

He said the letter opens the way to the forced removal of the last re­maining residents of the is­land.

“If [the residents] don’t agree, the forces will be used because it is the property of the state—not private [property],” he said.

Kann Man, a secretary of state at the Council of Ministers, said he was unaware of the letter.

Following a lengthy legal tussle, Phnom Penh Municipal Court ordered the eviction of the 27 families still living on Koh Pich on Nov 3.

Chum Sam Oeun, a resident on the island, said he was shown the letter shortly before the Wa­ter Festival during a meeting at the municipality.

During the meeting, Pa So­cheat­­­avong “said the letter was the decision of the Council of Min­is­ters,” Chum Sam Oeun said.

“We are afraid but have no­where to go so we just live here,” he said of the threat to use force.

Eang Sopheak, a lawyer with the Public Interest Legal Aid Pro­ject, which represents 20 of the 27 fam­ilies, said he had learned about the letter from the residents.

He also questioned why the Coun­cil of Ministers had issued a letter authorizing force when a court eviction order already ex­ists.

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