The road from Russei Keo district’s Tuol Kok village to New Town, a $2-billion satellite city that will rise on the banks of what is left of Pum Peay Lake, is a narrow strip of dirt—too narrow, municipal officials say.
For months, the municipality has negotiated with 32 residents whose homes must be destroyed to widen the 4-meter dirt lane to a 30-meter road, residents and human rights workers said.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the first bulldozers came, knocking down the walls in front of seven homes and leveling part of one, neighbors said Sunday.
All the owners had agreed to cede their property to the state, neighbors said.
Now 16 families who want to keep their homes fear the bulldozers will return. The city, they say, has offered them money for their property, but not enough to buy homes elsewhere in Phnom Penh.
Up and down the lane, residents have painted angry signs on walls, signposts, and scraps of cardboard, calling on Prime Minister Hun Sen for help.
“If they want to take my home and clear my land they should give us new land nearby,” Pun Hok, 54, said. Pun Hok said the city offered $9,100 for his 173-square-meter home but he wants four times that amount.
Russei Keo district Deputy Governor Keot Chhe said such de-mands were too high and he was not required to compromise.
“If they agree or disagree, we will clear the land or house because it is the order from the city,” he added.
Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong said he was abroad and could not comment.
Phan Boleap, 35, was among the residents who agreed with the municipality’s offer and sold—$35 per square meter for a 20-by-21-meter swath of her property.
She spent Sunday afternoon tearing down the house she and her family had lived in for eight years.
“It’s hard to say no,” she said, looking up at the men with hammers and crowbars tearing apart the house. “We know our government when they want to develop somewhere,” she added.