As rights groups push for open negotiations in the imminent eviction of dozens of Kampot town families, the provincial governor said March 7 things would work out better without NGO involvement.
Seven rights groups submitted a letter of complaint to Kampot Provincial Governor Thach Korn last month on behalf of 45 families on Kompong Bai riverfront, who received eviction notices in December. Many of the villages have lived on the land since the 1980s, the letter said. Officials say they plan a garden for the area.
Hallam Goad, adviser for local housing rights NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, said that since there have been no major evictions in Kampot province this case is pivotal.
“This is just the beginning, which is why we’re trying to work so hard for it. Because if we can get a precedent set in Kampot, that is going to make it much easier for negotiations in the future,” he said.
But Thach Korn said the NGOs are causing trouble and officials will continue negotiating privately.
“We are negotiating with the villagers to offer them appropriate compensation,” he said. “I hope that no one will incite the villagers and no NGOs will incite people to cause problems for the country’s interests.”
Mung Youern, a village representative, said many families are demanding $30,000, though nine families have accepted $6,000 each.
“We are the poorest people and are not going to cause trouble for government’s development,” she said, adding that $6,000 wouldn’t even cover the building materials in her house.
Goad said he was skeptical of the government’s claims. He said that most villagers have not been offered a deal, though many have been asked to thumbprint a vague document that says they will leave if offered adequate compensation.
“Officials need to make meaningful negotiations,” he said.
(Reporting by Emily Lodish, Kuch Naren, Pin Sisovann, Tim Sturrock.)