Feb 22 Deadline Looms for Bassac Residents to Leave

Yoong Yaing Rem, 78, was one of several Vietnamese villagers who was able to return to their homes in Phnom Penh’s Mean­chey district after being removed in November.

Now he is afraid he will be forced to leave his home again as the Feb 22 deadline to move for residents living on the banks of the Bassac River near Monivong Bridge approaches.

“I wanted to come back to my home, and now I’m worried that I will have to go again,” Yoong said Wednesday.

Yin Nguon Kolenin, chief of cabinet for Meanchey district, said authorities gave villagers a three-month advance warning and those who haven’t left by Feb 22 will be forced to leave.

He estimates 1,400 families, most of whom are Viet­nam­ese, live on the banks of the Bassac.

Government officials are still discussing the removal with several human rights groups, which are trying to find land and money for the villagers.

In November, more than 350 villagers, most of whom were Vietnamese living in floating homes and sampans, were told to leave by soldiers and police pointing AK-47s at them. The removal is part of Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara’s plans to clean up the city. The removed villagers were accused of being an eyesore and polluting the Bassac River.

Chea Sophara also accused the Vietnamese of being illegal immigrants, but later backed down from that statement, acknowledging that some were legal.

Reach Ra, 35, a Cambodian who lives on the banks of the Bassac River, said she will have nowhere to go if she is forced to leave and stressed it was Viet­namese who polluted the water.

Many villagers went to Prek Bra, about 4 km away from their homes. But some returned to their Mean­chey homes, while more than a hundred others remain in Kandal province near the Vietnamese border.











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