New Road Will Cost Squatters Their Homes

Phnom Penh Municipal Gov­ern­or Kep Chuktema ordered a group of squatters in Chamkar Mon district this week to leave their wooden houses in order to accommodate a new road, their commune chief said Thursday.

Boeng Trabek commune Chief Sen Beau Te said the order would affect the more than 20 families on Street 474’s quiet strip of furniture shops and carpenters, some of whom have lived there since 1980.

He said he will inform the squatters about the move next week and give them 15 days to move. Sen Beau Te said he was unsure whether the residents would receive compensation for the upheaval.

Municipal Cabinet Chief Mann Chhoeun said Thursday he was not familiar with the details of the construction project and de­clined to comment further. Kep Chuk­tema could not be reached for comment.

“Why do they have to expel me?” asked furniture maker Kim Sao, who lives with his family of eight above his cluttered furniture shop. “I have been living here a long time,” he said, since 1985.

“If the government wants to de­velop, they should expel people on other streets,” he said.

He did not yet know where he would relocate to, but ex­pressed hope that he could re­main in central Phnom Penh and not be exiled to the city’s outskirts, where “it is difficult to find a job and do business.”

On the parallel Street 466, residents, many of whose houses are concrete, said they had read in a Khmer-language newspaper that they would have to abandon the front two meters of their houses to accommodate a new road, but hadn’t received notice from local officials.

Sok Heng, a carpenter who has lived on Street 474 since 1983, said the news is especially painful because, since 1985, residents have maintained the dirt and gravel road that passes in front of their houses.

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