Nearly half of the 118 Vietnamese families under a court order to move out of the Wat Chak Angre Leu compound by Tuesday have found new homes, officials said.
The remaining families helped municipal authorities pull down most of the housing on the pagoda grounds Tuesday, and expect to stay there under tarpaulins for only a few more days.
Monks and officials greeted the partial resolution of the conflict with glee. “I am so happy with the court decision that settled the trouble for us,’’ said Kim Say, chief monk at the pagoda.
He was referring to a Supreme Court ruling in January ordering Vietnamese families living at the pagoda to find new homes.
The settlement, which at times grew as large as 500 people, dated from the chaotic days after the Vietnamese military toppled the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979 and the pagoda was deserted.
In recent months, tensions between the Vietnamese and monks have grown as monks work to restore the pagoda to a fully functioning Buddhist organization.
“A pagoda is a quiet place,’’ said Kim Say, and people should not be able to live indefinitely within its borders.
At least twice, tensions erupted into fights, which each side claimed the other had provoked.
The dispute culminated in a demonstration on March 27, when more than 100 students and monks marched from the wat to the city hall, demanding that officials make the Vietnamese leave.
Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara said that the court has ruled and it is up to the Vietnamese to find a new place to go.
“We do not care where they stay,’’ the governor said. “They have to find the place by themselves.’’
The remaining 70 families say they will go, as soon as they have it in writing that they will be allowed to stay on land they have purchased in Kandal province.
Dang Thang, 60, said he was speaking for those 70 families, and that they are sorry they have not finalized arrangements.
“No problem, we can leave from here, but we need an official paper which says we have the right to stay on land that we bought from villagers in Svay Rolum commune, Sa’ang district,’’ he said.
He said the 70 families are poor and were not able to make arrangements to move their possessions before Tuesday’s deadline. Svay Rolum officials could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, the monks were making plans for the land being cleared. Kim Say said a committee is thinking about building a crematorium, as well as a park in front of the primary school.