Eviction Victims Meet Phnom Penh Governor

Only days into his new post, Phnom Penh’s newly appointed governor did something his predecessor, Kep Chuktema, never did: He met with the victims of two of the city’s most bitter land disputes.

Pa Socheatvong, inaugurated on Friday, spent roughly 20 minutes with two groups of representatives from the Boeng Kak and Borei Keila neighborhoods, from which authorities have in recent years evicted thousands of families—illegally, according to housing rights groups.

“Yes, the governor met with them in person,” City Hall spokes­man Long Dimanche said. “He’s new, so he needs some time. He asked that they stay calm and give him a week to go over the documents,” he added, referring to the city’s files on the disputes.

Though the meeting led to no breakthroughs, Heng Mom, who faces eviction from Boeng Kak and has organized many protests that have been violently suppressed by security forces over the years, was encouraged by the meeting.

“Over the past five or six years, no ‘excellency’ has ever met with us,” she said after the meeting with Mr. Socheatvong. “Not His Excellency Kep Chuktema. Whenever he saw us, he escaped through the back door.”

City Hall in 2007 granted a 99-year lease to Boeng Kak to Shukaku Inc., a private firm owned by CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin, which has since overseen the eviction of some 3,000 families. Hous­ing rights groups say the evictions were illegal because most of the families had been living there long enough to qualify for land titles.

Another 200 people were violently evicted from Borei Keila in January 2012 from land leased to another well-connected firm, Phanimex.

“We hope that he [Mr. Socheat­vong] will solve the problem for us as soon as possible, before the election,” said Chhay Kimhorn, a Borei Keila evictee who also met with the new governor on Monday.

During his inauguration speech on Friday, Mr. Socheatvong, the city’s former deputy governor, vowed to solve both land disputes during his tenure.

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