Dozens of families watched Thursday as the wood and tin huts they built and had called home for years were torn down following an order to evict them from the streets of Chamkar Mon district near the plush InterContinental Hotel.
The Phnom Penh Municipality hired trucks to cart the people, their sparse belongings and even the material that comprised their homes on Street 430 to a location about 12 km from the city in Kandal province’s Takhmau district.
Chamkar Mon district Governor Lo Yuy said the eviction order coincided with the city’s desire to restore the Tumnop Toek commune’s sewage system and build roads. The residents said commune and district officials delivered the order earlier this week and district officials said a total of 76 families will be moved over the next few days.
Villagers interviewed said they had asked district and commune officials to reverse the order but felt they really had no choice.
“We agree to move because now we live on the street,” said Tum Song, speaking at the spot where his house had stood on Street 430 since 1984 until it was torn down Thursday.
“We protested to demand to live here or, if not, to get more land. But the protests did nothing,” he said.
Each family has been given a title to a 15 meter by 7 meter plot in Takhmau district, which was purportedly bought by the city. The families will also be given 20 kg of rice, buckets, a large water pot and tarpaulin. Two water wells have been dug at the site, but otherwise the area remains unserviced.
Many villagers said they did not have enough wood to build a home in Takhmau, saying what they have is rotten. Some said they would return if they find they cannot survive in Takhmau.
Tuy Someth of UN Habitat was concerned about the speed with which the eviction order was executed.
“It seems very fast,” he said, adding he expected a large percentage of the villagers will return to the city in a few months.
The streets where the evictions took place backed onto Canadia Bank’s massive Golden City residential development.
Hean Mao, chief of Tumnop Toek commune, said three companies are also planning to develop the area, but he said he did not know the names of the companies.