After months of negotiations over the amount of compensation villagers on Koh Pich, an island opposite the NagaCorp casino, would receive for leaving their land, Phnom Penh Municipality officials met with villagers for the first time on Wednesday to give details about their offer.
Koh Pich residents have been embroiled in a fight over their land since City Hall issued an eviction order Dec 6, which said they must leave their homes within 30 days.
“Any people who agree to accept compensation can go to meet with the working group at the municipality to get the money,” Municipality representative Mok Samnang told villagers at the island.
Mok Samnang said they could receive $2.50 per square meter from the Municipality and coupons from Canadia Bank based on the strength of their land claims. The coupons can be exchanged for properties that Canadia owns in other districts in Phnom Penh.
An independent appraisal of Koh Pich showed the land to be worth $24 to $26 per square meter, more than 20 times the Municipality’s original estimate of its worth.
Mok Samnang said the compensation offer would be divided into three categories: Those who do not have documentation proving ownership would receive a total of $5.25 per square meter—$2.50 in cash and $2.75 in coupons from Canadia Bank.
Those with documentation but live on land claimed by Sou Srum, a deceased man whose family is fighting for land they say he owned on Koh Pich, the Municipality is offering $6 per square meter—$3.40 of that amount would be given in coupons.
Those who have land titles proving ownership are offered $6.75 per square meter, with $4.25 of that in coupons.
Villagers, however, said they were opposed to the idea of receiving coupons as compensation.
“We need all compensation in cash,” said villager Long Mom, 28.
Lawyers representing the villagers said that the properties the villagers must buy with the coupons could be valued too highly.
“If they get a coupon for a certain amount of money, there must be an appraisal to confirm any replacement land is the stated value,” said Ouk Kimleng, attorney at-law for the US-backed Public Interest Legal Advocacy Project.