Some 74 families living along the perimeter fence of the Phnom Penh International Airport are facing possible eviction if they do not remove their decades-old settlement of homes by May 7, officials and villagers said Wednesday.
The families received a notice to leave the area, signed by Dangkao District Governor Krouch Phan, two days ahead of the Khmer New Year holiday. On Tuesday, villagers sent a three-page complaint to the Ministry of Interior seeking permission to stay until they can prove their legal right to the land, Ith Seng Sakhon, a villager representative, said by telephone Wednesday.
“We’re seeking help from the Ministry of Interior to get legal rights to the land where we’ve lived for several decades,” he said, adding that under the 2001 Land Law, the villagers should have full rights to get land and home titles.
Furthermore, Mr Ith Seng Sakhon said, many of the homes have been sold once or twice in the 1990s with recognition by local authorities on their paperwork.
The complaint to the Ministry of Interior asked for “legal rights for permanent settlement and for the issuance of legal titles,” a copy of the letter said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak confirmed Wednesday that his ministry had accepted the complaint, but suggested villagers meet with district and municipal authorities for possible compensation or alternate plots of land.
“Look at countries around the world,” he said. “No country in the world, including developed and developing countries, have residential homes along the fence of the airport.”
The district authority’s notice states that people have grabbed sidewalk and public land along Russian Confederation Boulevard next to the airport and along Choam Chao street in Choam Chao commune’s Prey Chisak village, and gives them until May 7 to clear out.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Mr Krouch Phan confirmed that he issued the directive in order to let villagers know of their possible eviction.
“They grab sidewalk and built homes on public streets,” he said. “We need to keep good security for the airplanes to take off and land, and avoid any possible crashes with those homes.”
Mr Krouch Phan said he would not use force to evict the residents.