Koh Pich Villagers Reject Compensation Plan

Villagers fighting eviction from their homes on Koh Pich, an island opposite NagaCorp casino, are rejecting an offer from Phnom Penh Municipality and Canadia Bank of $2 per square meter for their prime real estate—an in­crease from the original $1.

“This price is still too low. We cannot accept such low compensation,” village representative Chuon Sam Oeun said Wedne­sday.

An independent appraisal of Koh Pich in February showed the land to be worth $24 to $26 per square meter, more than 20 times the Municipality’s estimate of its worth, said the US-backed Public Interest Legal Advocacy Project, which represents villagers’ interests on the island.

Though an eviction or­der was issued by City Hall on Dec 6, mu­nic­ipal and Canadia Bank officials are still negotiating compensation with the villagers’ attorneys.                                    “We are very pleased that there is a negotiation process,” said Brian Rohan, technical adviser to PILAP. “However, these have been extremely difficult discussions, and there are still major obstacles to settlement.”

Hampering the negotiations is the Municipality’s refusal to give PILAP its report assessing how much land each villager owns.

“Until we agree on the exact amount of land that our clients pos­sess, there can be no agreement on the case. We are frustrated that we do not have this information,” PILAP attorney Chou Vineath said.

But Canadia Bank Senior Man­ager Yee Con Long said the negotiations are “positive.”

“We have not finalized compensation,” he said. “At least we have an open discussion on this be­tween three parties.”

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheatevong declined to comment on the issue Wednesday.

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