Deadline Passes, But Squatters Not Yet Evicted

A Ministry of Interior deadline to evict 168 families next to Phnom Penh’s state-run Preah Monivong Hospital passed without incident Wednesday.

Instead, representatives of the families were preparing for a meeting with Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun and an Interior Ministry representative in which they plan to submit three proposals to stave off the eviction.

The first option, and the one most fa­vored by the villagers, would see the city give them a loan to up­grade their homes.

“The people prefer and are planning to build-up their apartments at the disputed area by themselves with a loan from the government or from NGOs,” village represen­ta­tive Sean Soeung said.

The proposed $1.54 million project would see the construction of 70 four-story buildings containing 280 apartments, two roads linking the apartments and a parking lot, he said. The loan would be repaid like a mortgage over a 29-year per­iod, or 112 apart­ments could be sold or rented for $40 each.

The second idea would be to re­locate onto new land not more than 5 km away from their current homes, with new houses and a concrete road linking them to a main road.

“We do not want to relocate to the outskirts of the city because we have seen the failed projects the go­vernment has already tried in re­cent years,” Sean Soeung said.

If the municipality does not ac­cept the first two options, it can buy their homes for a fair market price, Sean Soeung added.

Mann Chhoeun said today’s meeting is intended to resolve the issue without violence.

“We try to find the best way be­tween the Ministry of Interior and the community,” he said, noting the municipality falls under the min­­­istry’s jurisdiction. “We try our best to solve the problem peacefully.”

But General Say Lor, director of the Interior Ministry’s health de­part­ment, said the order was not en­­­forced be­cause he was too bu­sy. He said the proposal to up­­­grade the apart­ments was not fea­sible be­cause the land belongs to the minis­try.

“They cannot build it because the land belongs to the Ministry of Interior,” he said Wednesday.

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