The rasping of metal on metal filled the air Monday as squatters on one side of a small dirt path in Tonle Bassac commune in Chamkar Mon district removed their corrugated-metal roofs and dismantled their houses.
Nine remaining families agreed Monday to move their homes from the Krang Thnong commune to 7-meter-by-15-meter lots in Dangkao district, more than 14 km from the center of Phnom Penh, in exchange for titles to the new lots and $900 in compensation.
Ten other families agreed Jan 12 to move from land the owner now intends to develop. The lawyer for the owner, Long Dara, said a court ruling in March ordered the squatters to move.
“According to the court, we move the people, but we don’t have to pay,” Long Dara said. He said the owner agreed to pay compensation and give them plots of land because the squatters are poor and would have nowhere to go.
Soum Sina, 48, head of one of the relocated families, complained that the land they must move to is several kilometers from the nearest market and hospital, and it floods in the rainy season.
“We will be living in the rice fields,” he said. “Not the village.”
The squatters, who moved onto the land located near the Japanese and Thai embassies in 1997, say the lawyer came with military and police and threatened to burn down the houses if the families did not move.
“The families are afraid and they wanted the money,” said Sar Heng Vansak, Tonle Bassac 1 commune chief. “That’s why they agreed to move.”
Sar Heng Vansak said the court did not order the 19 families to relocate. It ordered two men named Lov Ku Chun and Yim Sophat, as representatives of the land, to move out and hand over that land to the owner, Pok Yuthea.
But according to the Sar Heng Vansak, those two men have never lived in the commune, and no one has any idea who they are. Long Dara refused to answer questions about the identity of the men.