Governor Issues Ultimatum to Land Owners

Owners of property on the Bassac River front have two weeks to donate their land for construction of a new riverside promenade or face having the land confiscated, Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara said.

The threat of confiscation was issued after a dismal turnout by a group of land owners invited to a municipal meeting Monday to discuss the proposed riverfront development, which stretches from Hun Sen Park to Monivong Bridge in south Phnom Penh.

While some of the 24 land owners sent representatives, others may not have received their invitations, Chea Sophara said. Individual meetings will be called over the next two weeks, he said.

“We want to discuss this issue with the owners, but I am sure they will cooperate,” Chea Sophara said Tuesday.

The governor envisions the 24 hectares transformed into a riverside path and public gardens.

The mun­icipality is asking that the land be donated. But Chea Sophara said the gov­ernment can confiscate what it needs because owners do not have proper land titles issued by the municipality.

Nhem Saran, director of the municipality’s public works department, said the $6 million construction project would require each landowner to forfeit 50 meters of land stretching inland from the riverbank.

At least six landowners are well-known Cambodian businessmen, Nhem Saran said.

Co-Minister of Defense Tea Banh said Tuesday the ministry owns more than 10 hectares of the land stretching from behind the Russian Embassy on Soth­earos Boulevard to the site of the new Thai Embassy on Norodom Boulevard.

Although an RCAF radio communications battalion was situated on the land during the 1980s, most of the land has been home to hundreds of squatter families since the early 1990s.

“I have no hope that the Ministry of Defense can take the land back from the people,” Tea Banh said, adding the municipality is welcome to develop the land.

Once the municipality obtains the land, it would begin a massive operation to excavate land from small islands in the confluence of the Bassac, Sap and Mekong rivers, Nhem Saran said.

The excavated earth would be used to reinforce the Bassac river bank to allow construction of the promenade and park.

 

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