A Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge on Thursday ordered the eviction of the families living on Koh Pich—the disputed island across from NagaCorp Casino—and for all activity on the island to cease, lawyers and representatives of families on the island said.
Judge Kim Ravy issued the two injunctions after family representatives and their lawyers walked out of a closed-door hearing at his chambers, they said.
Lawyers said the walkout was in protest of the fact that the public and many families living on the island were not allowed to attend the hearing.
Contacted by telephone, Kim Ravy hung up on a reporter.
Sou Hak, a representative of the families, protested Kim Ravy’s decision, alleging it was illegal.
“There is no transparency at all for buying and selling land on the island—it is secret deals,” he added.
“We wonder why the municipality wants to dismantle one village because of development plans.”
The hearing was attended by four representatives of the families and five lawyers for them, and one lawyer representing the municipality.
Lawyers with the Community Legal Education Center and Uk Phourik, a private lawyer representing the families, said they had written to the Ministry of Justice and the court, asking that the case be transferred to a Cadastral Commission, which they say has jurisdiction over unregistered land such as Koh Pich.
The commission operates like a non-binding arbitration council under the Ministry of Land Management.
Lawyers said the eviction order could be effective immediately.
The municipality had offered landowners $6.75 per square meter for what City Hall says is state land. The families have demanded $25 per square meter.
But real estate agents said the land is worth much more.
Saroeun Soush, managing director of Asia Real Property Co Ltd, estimated that the land is worth $300 to $500 per square meter.
An official with Bonna Realty Co Ltd who declined to be named said the land would be worth $60 to $100 per square meter if it was undeveloped, and would be worth much more if the city developed it.
He added that foreign and local firms have expressed interest in 70-year leases on the land.
Vice Municipal Governor Pa Socheatavong pledged “on behalf of the Municipality’s honor” that the land will not be sold for personal benefits.
“It belongs to the state, so how can it be sold?” he asked.