Law calls for Russei Keo residents to be relocated, not evicted, NGO says

Phnom Penh authorities’ plans for the hundreds of Russei Keo district families facing eviction from a Tonle Sap riverbank remained unclear yesterday. However a human rights worker said that under current government policy, they deserved some form of accommodation.

Residents in Russei Keo, Tuol Sangke and Srah Chak communes living in ramshackle homes along the Tonle Sap river will likely lose their homes, although a timetable is uncertain, according to The Nge, deputy district governor.

“We’re not exactly sure of City Hall’s plan to evict the villagers living at the riverside,” said Mr Nge after acknowledging the homes will come down.

According to Mr Nge, the park will be partly financed by Sokimex, the local conglomerate and fuel importer, which is contributing $70,000 toward the initial phase being built near company headquarters on National Road 5. District governor Klaing Huot said yesterday he did not know how many families would be affected by the park’s construction.

“The villagers who reside at the riverside have been told it’s government land and the government used to tell them not to construct real buildings there. Now, they are living in anarchy,” said Mr Nge.

According to Eang Vuthy, a program officer for Bridges Across Borders, if the land belongs to the state, a plan should be in place to relocate the families.

“The government has to find a suitable place for people who lose their land,” Mr Vuthy said. According to a government circular approved in May, options for people in illegal, temporary settlements include on-site upgrades or relocation.

“The circular says the government has to find a solution for the people,” Mr Vuthy said.

Residents in Russei Keo commune said yesterday that they hadn’t been informed of eviction plans by authorities.

“The authorities have not sent out the letter announcing the eviction yet,” said a 47-year-old Russei Keo commune woman who asked not to be named out of fear of retribution. “I heard it broadcast on…television.”


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