About 60 people representing 131 families evicted from the hill above Sihanoukville’s Serendipity Beach last week gathered in front of the Royal Palace on Tuesday, seeking King Norodom Sihamoni’s help in securing more adequate compensation for their land.
Their petition, signed by the 60 villagers, was accepted by a Royal Palace police official on the condition that the villagers disperse.
The families were forced to move their huts on Feb 15 from land claimed by Oknha Kong Triv, who paid $75 and some rice as compensation to each family. Kong Triv said he plans to build villas and a resort on the land.
But seven families reported receiving no compensation. “They robbed our land,” said villager Thong Chey Sarak, 49. “The Mittapheap [district] Governor Kong Samoeun invited us for the negotiations, but he forced us to accept $75 and 20 kg of rice,” he said. Thong Chey Sarak said he had lived in the area since 1998.
“I came to find justice,” said Tan Naren, 45, who said she had lived in the area since 1994.
The villagers are demanding $2,500 for each family so they can purchase new land with access to electricity and water.
They also brought attention to a guesthouse in the disputed area co-owned by Hun San—a brother of Prime Minister Hun Sen—which was not pulled down in last week’s eviction.
Hun San had said he would protect the rights of the 131 families and successfully lobbied the prime minister’s Cabinet to temporarily cancel the eviction. But that order applied only to Hun San and seven other guesthouse owners, whose land will be surveyed before a final decision is reached.
“Why did they do that to our houses [and] not to Hun Sen’s brother?” Thong Chey Sarak asked.
Kong Triv defended the eviction Tuesday, saying it was executed in accordance to the law.
“They violated me,” Kong Triv said. “What we offered was appropriate. They broke our walls and encroached my land.”
Mittapheap district Governor Kong Samoeun declined to comment Tuesday.
Calls to Sihanoukville Governor Say Hak were unsuccessful.