Families Ousted in Cleanup

Chhay Nak could do nothing Monday but stand in front of the municipal officials as they tore down her wooden shack on a side street near the National Theater.

“I couldn’t take any belongings with me while the police tore down my cottage. I have no place to stay,” said 24-year-old Chhay Nak. “How could we protest them? They had weapons.”

The mother and her baby were one of about 100 families forced to move by the Phnom Penh Municipality as it implemented a new policy to beautify the city.

The slum will be redeveloped as a park, Phnom Penh’s deputy governor Chea Sophara said Tuesday on the site where bulldozers leveled the ground.

“This place has been very ugly and smelled terrible. The environment is not good,” said Chea Sophara. “We’re making a nice park in front of the theater.”

The families used to live on the riverbank and moved to the side street in the last flooding season. Since the municipality destroyed their houses without compensation, some squatters went back to the river­bank­ and others are still looking for new homes.

Removing squatters from the streets is one of the municipality’s priority projects to clean up the city, Chea Sophara said.

The government also recently ordered vendors  away from the Sisowath Quay riverside to the nearby park in front of the Royal Palace. All food vendors, flowers sellers and other small businesses were cleared from the site, and the nightly spectacle of people on straw mats lining the river also has gone.

The project’s next step is to clear squatters from side streets near the Russian Embassy to make a parking lot, Chea Soph­ara said Tuesday.

Lim Phai, director of the non-profit Urban Sector Group, said: “Development is needed in Phnom Penh. But the municipality seems to have no master plan on resettlement. They should set up a compensation policy and proper relocation plan.”


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