Members of families facing eviction following a Municipality order crowded the offices of a local human rights group on Thursday, demanding compensation if they are forced to vacate land they claim they’ve lived on for years.
More than 50 people packed the offices of Licadho in response to a directive ordering some 1,000 families to move from the banks of the Bassac River in Meanchey district by Nov 30, according to Licadho president Kek Galabru.
Pen Sovann, an angry 52-year-old father of two, said Thursday that he was entitled to the land, which he said cost him $1,800 in 1994. He claimed he had the title, and added that permission to construct his $2,800 house on the plot was given by Chbar Ampou 2 commune and Meanchey district officials.
“I don’t want to leave but if I have to leave, the government must compensate me,” said Pen Sovann, an ethnic Vietnamese. “I am very angry the government is running me away from my house.”
Residents facing eviction said families in three communes—Chbar Ampou 2, Chak Angre Leu, and Chak Angre Krom—will be affected.
According to Kek Galabru, some 70 percent of the families are Cambodian nationals and the remainder are ethnic Vietnamese who have been living in Cambodia for many years.
Many of the families who arrived at the Licadho office Thursday claim they have title rights to the land and maintained they also received construction permission from local authorities, rights workers said.
“They accept they have to go. But they have titles to their houses….They want some form of compensation; land or money. You cannot just tell them to go in two weeks,” said Kek Galabru.
She said many of the families may have built illegally, but that officials who sold land titles or accepted money to grant permission for construction are guilty of corruption.
“It is a problem of corruption. They [the families] paid someone and received titles. In fact, it was forbidden from the beginning [to build],” said Kek Galabru.
Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara said Thursday that no one would be evicted until a meeting is held with families after the Water Festival.
“I will discuss plans in detail after the Water Festival,” said Chea Sophara.
Earlier this month, some 656 floating houses and sampans were evicted from Chak Angre Leu and Chak Angre Krom communes near the Monivong Bridge in southern Phnom Penh
Chea Sophara called the action a crackdown on illegal Vietnamese immigrants. It followed a formal complaint by the Chinese Embassy that authorities had unfairly targeted their nationals in an August and September sweep against illegal immigrants.
Human rights groups criticized the eviction operation at the Monivong Bridge, claiming authorities did not ask the families for residency documents before they were removed.