Gov’t To Clear Hospital Site Of 168 Families

The Interior Ministry plans to expel 168 families today from a squatter community next to the state-run Preah Monivong Hos­pital near Phnom Penh’s Phsar Thmei, General Say Lor, director of the Interior Ministry’s Health Department said Monday.

A committee established by the Interior Ministry has agreed in principal “to order those people to walk away from their anarchic residence,” Say Lor said by telephone. “I’m sorry I can’t help them. They have to go.”

Say Lor said the government wants the land where the squatters live, just off Street 63, in order to expand the hospital.

But squatters at the Monivong community on Monday voiced concern that government authorities hope to sell the land to private investors.

They added that they strongly object to being moved.

“If they want to take our houses, we won’t agree,” Sean Soeung, a squatter representative said in an interview at the well-kept community, which has an underground sewage system and features two-story concrete houses.

Twenty-four squatters guard the community each night, to prevent evictions or arson, Sean Soeung said.

“We’ve been living here for 16 years. We’re close to the school, the hospital and the market place. We don’t want to move. Living here is very comfortable,” he said.

On Jan 20, the Interior Ministry established a committee to hold talks with the Royal Group family of companies, which controls the Cambodian Television Network and Mobitel mobile telephone firm, about finding a new location for the hospital, according to a copy of an Interior Ministry document signed by National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy.

Villagers fear that the government will also sell the land where they live to the Royal Group, Sean Soeung said.

Royal Group chairman Kit Meng declined comment on the hospital Monday.

In an appeal dated Jan 27, the villagers asked Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema to intervene in their case, according to a copy of the request thumbprinted by 168 people.

Kep Chuktema could not be reached for comment Monday.

When squatters are relocated by the government, they are often removed from Phnom Penh, to areas without schools, hospitals and electricity, the villagers said in their appeal.

“People always run away from relocation areas after living there for two or three months because they cannot live [there]” the squatters said.

Say Lor said that in principle, the government plans to pay the squatters well for the land where they live, but did not specify how much they would receive in compensation.

In their appeal, however, the squatters said they were told by the Interior Ministry committee on Jan 27 that they will receive “little money because the government is very poor.”

The community is situated on prime real estate about 100 meters from the Municipal Police Headquarters.

On Jan 18, Pheapimex Co Ltd director Suy Sophan said the state-owned headquarters had been traded with the firm for a new police building, which Pheapimex will build outside the city center.


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