More than 200 residents thrown from their homes at the municipal dump site in Meanchey district ensconced themselves outside City Hall Monday afternoon, threatening to remain until the municipality gives them a place to live.
The protest began after district and military police launched a second operation to destroy hundreds of cardboard and plastic homes and remove dwellers who live and work scavenging among the mounds of garbage.
Shortly after the July 27 general elections, scores of police officers clad in riot gear and armed with assault rifles launched the first operation to remove the shanty town set up by scavengers residing at the dump. Residents accused the authorities of being heavy-handed, and said they torched several homes.
“I want the Municipal Governor [Kep Chuktema] to find a resolution for the poorest people living on a small road located close to the Stung Meanchey disposal site,” said Ly Da, a scrap scavenger and laborer, outside City Hall. “I and the other people will stay at the municipality until the governor finds a resolution,” she said. “We will stay even if there is intervention from police to break us up.”
Ly Da said more than 40 police officers descended on the dump Monday morning, dismantling hundreds of cardboard and bamboo houses that had been rebuilt after the first police operation. The police loaded the residents’ building materials and personal property on the back of trucks. She said residents do not know where the trucks went.
Ly Da and others at the protest said, some 150 families lived at the dump site. “I hope the governor will find proper accommodation for me and the other people,” said Porn Thorn, 42, a waste-picker who said he has lived at the dump for three years.
City officials were in a meeting late Monday and could not be reached for comment. Ly Da, however, said Municipal Cabinet Chief Mann Chhoeun had told them that Kep Chuktema would speak to them after the meeting.
Earlier Monday, Phnom Penh municipal officials attended a seminar organized by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency on a draft master plan for solid waste management. Seminar participants were told of the need for a waste management plan in Phnom Penh, as the city’s population and waste is expected to increase sharply in the near future.
Between now and 2015, Phnom Penh’s population will increase from 1.2 million to 1.7 million, said Junji Anai, technical manager for JICA’s environmental consultant division. Meanwhile, the city’s current waste output of 667 tons per day is expected to increase to 1,291 tons per day, according to JICA estimates.
According to JICA, the Stung Meanchey dump site, which is closed to human habitation, should be shut down and a new, purpose-built dump constructed in Dangkao district.