Battambang provincial authorities are evicting families living in an unregistered floating village in Ek Phnom district because they say the village will hurt the ecosystem of flooded forest areas of the Tonle Sap, officials said Wednesday.
Officials ordered the move in July after more than 100 families asked authorities earlier this year to legally recognize their village, called Peak Kantael, Battambang Governor Prach Chan said.
The villagers’ request was rejected, he said, and now they must move immediately.
“After we studied the area, it cannot be the site of a village because it could affect biodiversity in the area,” Prach Chan said.
Prach Chan said most of the villagers are new to the area, having moved to Peak Kantael, in Koh Chivaing commune, in 2002 and 2003. The villagers had houses in Siem Reap province or Ek Phnom district, but moved to Peak Kantael to fish, he said, adding that their Peak Kantael homes were not their permanent residences.
Villagers, however, said Peak Kantael was an old village and they have lived there since the 1980s, according to a report by the NGO Fisheries Action Coalition Team.
The villagers earn a living by fishing and if forced to move, they will have nowhere to go and no way to fish, said Mak Sithirith, director of Fisheries Action Coalition Team.
“It would be better to move the residents to a village with their own fishing ground, so they can improve their living condition,” said Chin Vuthy, FACT project officer. He added that new sites should be well researched to see whether there is enough water and other resources before villagers are relocated.
Officials, however, said that although villagers must leave the area, there is no plan to relocate them. Nao Thuok, Fisheries Department director at the Ministry of Agriculture, said Wednesday that no new village would be created within the flooded forest areas of the Tonle Sap because it would damage the ecosystem, which is a spawning area for fish.