Floating Village Residents Get Boot Today

Some 755 families living in the floating village near Monivong Bridge in Phnom Penh’s Mean­chey district are scheduled to be kicked out of their homes this morning, a municipal deputy governor said Tuesday.

Em Sokleang said Meanchey district police and military police will remove the villagers, most of whom are ethnic Vietnamese who make a living by peddling seafood at nearby Chbar Ampou market. He invited television news stations to view the removal of the villagers, who bathe and fish in the Bassac River that supports their homes.

Chea Sophara, first deputy governor of Phnom Penh, said since most of the villagers are illegal Vietnamese immigrants, they should go back to their own country. But he said the first objective is to remove the villagers from the bridge and further plans haven’t been made yet.

Some villagers have said although they are ethnic Viet­namese, they were born in Cam­bodia and consider this to be their homeland.

Recently, there has been a crackdown of Chinese illegal immigrants, resulting in hundreds of arrests. After Chinese Embassy officials complained that Chinese were being singled out, the government ordered all illegal residents to turn themselves in by Nov 5 or face possible jail and deportation.

Chea Sophara said the decision to remove the Vietnamese in the floating village will show that officials are equally applying the law on illegal immigrants. “We not only want the Chinese illegal immigrants to be returned to their own country, we will also address the issue of illegal Viet­namese immigrants,” he said.

Chea Sophara said the villagers also are an eyesore and pollute the waters of the Bassac. “We must remove them from the area of the Monivong Bridge for the security of the bridge, and reform the city scene, especially the environment of the river water,” Chea Sophara said.

The villagers also agreed that they will leave this month, he added.

But villagers have said in previous interviews that it would be a danger to remove them from the area now, because the Bassac is running very high and very fast. They said they would likely lose a lot of property.

If officials delayed the move until the river is low enough and slow enough, the villagers said they would be satisfied.

But Chea Sophara questioned whether the government is obliged to address the concerns of illegal immigrants.

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