Facing eviction from their homes on the banks of the Bassac River, some 1,000 families are petitioning key government officials for an alternative location to live, a local human rights group reported Monday.
Kek Galabru, president of Licadho, said that almost 1,000 family record books were handed to Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara Monday, and copies will be sent today to Prime Minister Hun Sen, National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh, Senate President Chea Sim and co-Ministers of Interior Sar Kheng and You Hockry.
“This is the will of the people. The people want us to show [the government] that they have documents and it is the duty of the government to stand by the documents,” said Kek Galabru.
She said the family record books prove local authorities allowed building on the disputed riverside lands and therefore families should receive compensation if they are moved.
Issued by district authorities, a family record book is used by Cambodian nationals as proof of identity and place of residence. The document also allows holders to apply for Cambodian identity cards and to vote in national elections, said Kek Galabru. That essentially grants them Cambodian citizenship rights.
“No one wants permission to stay. We know Chea Sophara wants to clean the city and the environment. But what we want is more time for the people to move and cooperation with [UN Development Program] to find land for the families,” said Kek Galabru.
Chea Sophara said the evictions of the 1,000 families from the banks of the Bassac River in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district will be done gradually, and those who can prove they’re Cambodian citizens will be compensated.
“I will clarify their nationality. We especially want to know where they came from and how long they have stayed here,” he said, noting that possession of a family record book was not proof alone as they could be forged.
He also reaffirmed his intention to clear the land. Several hundred families living on floating homes were forcibly removed earlier this month.
A human rights analyst said Monday that a proper screening process must be set up to independently verify the validity of the documents and, if found authentic, the government must take responsibility. “Local officials gave these people land titles. They represent the government, and the government must take responsibility for lower-ranking officials. This is not the problem of the people. They must receive compensation,” he said.
Chhun Chhoun, Meanchey district governor, confirmed Monday the eviction will be done on a gradual basis and residents on the disputed land will have time to remove their houses.
However, Tup Math, a resident of Chak Angre Leu commune, said Monday some residents already had dismantled their houses, fearing violence from authorities during a forced eviction. But Tup Math said he will wait to see the result of the family book petition before leaving.
(Additional reporting by Chea Soviarak)