Government Forms Commission to Evict Families Near Airport

Deputy Prime Minister Sok An yesterday approved the creation of a joint commission which will undertake the role of evicting hundreds of families living near Phnom Penh International Airport before the Asean and East Asia summits commence next month.

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Thmar Kaul village near Phnom Penh International Airport is one of three villages where families are facing eviction because of security preparations for world leaders attending the Asean and East Asia summits in November. (Siv Channa)

“We will start soon after setting up the joint commission because we cannot delay, as we need to strengthen security for the world delegates coming to attend the summits next month,” said Choam Chao commune chief Sot Sath.

Mr. Sath said that no exact date had been set for the eviction and declined to elaborate on what else was discussed with Mr. An during the meeting at the Council of Ministers.

Representatives of the 387 families from Choam Chao’s Prey Chisak, Thmar Kaul and Kauk Chambak villages were in tears yesterday after learning about the imminent eviction.

“Authorities must pay compensation because we need money to buy land. I will leave immediately if they give me $20,000,” said Tes Thoeu, 70, a representative for families living in Prey Chisak village.

“All of us will protest to demand appropriate compensation because we live on this land legally, and the local authority had recognized the buying and selling documents of [our] land,” said Chray Nim, 34, another representative of the families, adding that a protest has been planned for outside the National Assembly on Monday.

Nicolas Agostini, technical assistant for the human rights monitoring section of the rights group Adhoc, said yesterday’s meeting showed the eviction has not followed due process.

“Every eviction has to be honest,” he said. “If the authorities do not follow due process, then it is a forced eviction. In this case, it is very clear that the people acted and built the houses in good faith and the authorities gave them the approval to build the houses.”

All 387 families living on 6.3 hectares of land east and south of the airport, have claimed to own the land legally, while government officials say the families are living on the land illegally.

Authorities have told the families to leave their homes to pave the way for a security road, a longer runway and so-called “buffer zones” for delegates’ planes when they visit for the summits, which are scheduled to run from November 18 to 20.

Among the delegates are U.S. President Barack Obama, China’s Wen Jiabao, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and India’s Manmohan Singh.

When asked yesterday if the U.S. government condones their eviction, Sean McIntosh, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, deferred questions to the Cambodian government. “I defer to the Cambodian government on its security preparations,” he wrote in an email.

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