Despite residents’ angry protests, police and hired hands Wednesday dismantled more than 30 homes at Tonle Bassac commune’s Village 15 in Phnom Penh, where a developer intends to build town houses, apartment towers and office space.
A representative of developer 7NG said that the company intended to demolish about 100 lean-tos and shacks that the company claims squatters have erected on land legally surrendered to the company by previous residents.
At one point during Wednesday’s dismantling effort, a woman defending her shelter was handcuffed, spurring about 70 residents to march spontaneously to the nearby National Assembly, where they were received by SRP lawmaker Ho Vann.
Commune officials later removed the handcuffs from Long Srey Leak, 38, whose shelter was not demolished.
Suos Ry, whose shelter was demolished, said he had come to live in the area because he had nowhere else to go.
“I must leave for now,” he said, but several of those whose homes were demolished said they would rebuild them.
“I will buy a tarpaulin to set up again,” said Chan Thea.
Last August, 7NG held a lottery to offer villagers living on the land new homes in a brick apartment complex in Dangkao district’s Choam Chao commune. Nearly 350 families were awarded apartments at the time.
Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong said Wednesday that the municipality had authorized the demolitions 10 days ago at the request of district and commune officials.
Handcuffing Long Srey Leak had been a “small, non-violent confrontation,” he said, as the woman had opposed the demolitions.
In 2003, the Council of Ministers counted 1,465 families living in the village. By December, the number had dropped to 386, according to a Council of Ministers document.
Srey Sothea, an adviser and relative of 7NG President Srey Chanthu, said Wednesday that only 179 families lawfully remained at the site.
“If they sell their houses, we will buy them at a proper price or they can take the flats,” he said of the Choam Chao commune development, where he claimed as many as 1,700 apartments have been built.
“The remaining families are not a problem. The problem is the sneaking-in families,” he said.