As the deadline set by City Hall for residents of a village in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district to vacate the area draws near, about 100 of them delivered a petition to the National Assembly on Wednesday in a last ditch effort to convince lawmakers to intervene on their behalf.
The petition was delivered to CNRP lawmakers Chea Poch and Chan Cheng outside the Assembly building, and also to Kong Chamroeun, a secretary in Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cabinet, as the villagers marched past Wat Botum park.
More than 600 people living in Kilometr Pram Muoy commune’s Boeng Chhuk village received a notice from City Hall last week signed by district governor Thuy Sokhan informing them that they had 15 days from the date it was signed—November 14—to move their homes and possessions or face eviction.
The notice says district authorities plan to widen Street 1800, which runs through the village, and that their homes stand in the way of the expansion. But despite the notice having been signed almost two weeks ago, villagers said they did not receive it until Friday. This gives them just over a week to dismantle homes some of them say they have lived in since the early 1980s.
“We have lived in this area since there was nothing here but jungle and flooding,” said Seng Sna, 50, a representative of the community. Mr. Sna said no road ran through the area when the homes were built and that authorities only constructed the current dusty and potholed one in 2000.
Sa Em Savin, 88, said she moved to the village with her husband in 1982.
“When I moved here, it was just jungle and the authorities never came to develop it,” Ms. Em Savin said, sitting on the floor of her bamboo shack with her blind, 84-year-old husband. “But now that the area has started to develop, they want our land.”
“We are just poor people; we can’t do anything to stop the authorities,” she said. “If we lose this house, we will die.”
Deputy municipal governor Khuon Sreng said City Hall had no plans to compensate the villagers unless they hold land titles —which none of them do.
“If the deadline passes and the villagers have not moved, then we will take action,” Mr. Sreng said.
Asked what specific action would be taken, he said: “Please leave it to me, I will take care of it.”
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