The Phnom Penh Municipality has asked the municipal court for permission to evict some 20 families still living on Koh Pich, claiming that all avenues of negotiation have been exhausted, officials said Tuesday.
If the families are evicted, this would pave the way for what Canadia Bank officials described as a $100-million “small city” on the island that will include shops and entertainment centers.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said that after months of negotiating with the families, it was obvious they were not going to leave voluntarily.
“When their demands were going higher, we could not compensate them,” he said. “So we are waiting for the [eviction] order. We need Koh Pich for the development of the city.”
Khieu Sopheak said the municipality sent the eviction request to the courts last week, adding that there is not expected to be a hearing or trial, because the families are living on the island illegally as islands are state property.
Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheatevong confirmed that he had sent the case to the municipal court but would not elaborate, referring questions to the court.
Prak Savouth, municipal court chief clerk, said that he had not received a case related to Koh Pich.
Koh Pich resident Chum Sam Oeun said he was not aware that the case was now with the courts.
“We are not living on the state’s land, we live on our own land,” he said. “I am not worried. I will defend myself. If [I] don’t win, I will appeal.”
Thou Sam Nang, the manager of Canadia Bank’s Koh Pich project, said the company is still negotiating with the municipality to rent the island for 99 years and plans to invest $100 million in the project.
Because the company will rent the land, it has left it to the municipality to negotiate with the residents, Thou Sam Nang said.
He added that the bank could not give in to residents’ demands to be allowed to live on small plots of land on the island in exchange for the bank using the rest.
“To do like this would stop the project,” he said.