More than 200 families being evicted from Kompong Chhnang City’s riverfront as part of a beautification plan have been asked to pay $1,000 each to move inland to new state-provided plots, according to a notice issued by the provincial governor.
The notice, which was sent to 210 Khmer and Cham Muslim families on Monday, says evicted residents must agree to pay the fee over two years to get a new plot, with the money going to filling in the land, which flooded during the rainy season.
The new 5-by-20 meter plots were bought from an unnamed private citizen, the notice says.
“Go build houses yourself,” it says, promising residents they will receive land titles when they arrive.
The evictions are part of a five-year plan that began in 2015 to “beautify” the provincial capital’s riverfront. The plan is intended to boost the city’s image and help its tiny tourism industry.
Matt Saly, 49, a Cham Muslim resident who has lived on the river for about 25 years, said most of her neighbors were refusing to move because they relied on the river for their livelihoods. The new plots are about 2 km inland, she said.
“Where can we go? We are fishermen. If we move away from the river, we will lose our jobs. Where can we dock our boats?” she asked.
Toth Kimsroy, provincial coordinator for Minority Rights Organization, which works with residents of the site, said the state’s offer was not good enough.
“Ninety-five percent of the people there are refusing to move,” he said.
Contacted by telephone on Wednesday, however, provincial governor Chhuor Chandoeun said most of the residents were pleased with the arrangement.
“Almost 100 percent of the people agreed to move,” he said. “There are about 10 families who oppose it and demand bigger plots of land and more money.”
The new plots in return for $1,000 is his last offer, and the residents have until the end of this month to move.