Land Dispute Families Turn Down Offer of New Apartments

Three families involved in a bitter land dispute with a powerful land developer in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district on Monday rejected City Hall’s offer of new housing, saying the apartments being offered were far too small.

They also said they planned to file a complaint with the International Criminal Court in The Hague today over the long-running dispute.

Since the families refused an offer of $15,000 by the Khun Sear Import and Export Company to vacate the land in Boeng Kak I commune, they have been subject to a campaign of violent intimidation. The land was acquired by the company in a swap deal with the government.

The families claim to have lived on the land for decades. They say the city’s offer of smaller, less valuable properties in Russey Keo district’s Chroy Changva commune is an attempt to force a compromise.

“City Hall met us and wants to compensate us, but they are continuing to trying to hurt us, so we didn’t accept because we need more as we have lived at our homes for a long time,” said 58-year-old Ly Sreang Kheng, who filed a police complaint earlier this month after being struck with an iron bar on his way to work. “And how can we accept this offer of compensation after they have tried to kill us?”

Mr. Kheng said that the families will instead file a complaint today with the International Criminal Court against Khun Sear because the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and local authorities have repeatedly ignored their attempts to find justice. He said he had typed and prepared the complaint himself at a photocopy shop near Chaktomuk High School. He declined to reveal more details about the complaint, or what crimes it alleges that Khun Sear has committed, until after it is filed. The ICC has jurisdiction only over international crimes such as genocide.

Sok Huch, 48, said that the city offered her a small ground floor flat, measuring just 4.2 meters by 12 meters—far too small for her family of 10. She pointed out to City Hall officials that there are two-story apartments in the same development that would be big enough to accommodate them. But she said only small apartments were being offered.

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said the municipality was not forcing families to relocate to Chroy Changva commune.

“The purpose of our meeting was to give them a choice of moving to this new development, where they will be the owners of their own houses,” he said.

“But they are currently living on state land so I think they should choose to move to one of the new flats. If they do not move, we will continue working to find a solution for them, but they will have to move somewhere,” Mr. Dimanche added.

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