Preah Sihanouk Families Face Eviction for Planned Reservoir

More than 200 families in Preah Sihanouk province face eviction as Saturday’s government-mandated deadline approaches for them to make way for a planned 300-hectare reservoir, a local official and rights worker said yesterday.

The reservoir in Prey Nop district’s Ream commune would supply wa­ter to local residents and the Pre­ah Sihanouk province airport, according to a copy of a Feb 18, 2008, letter signed by Minister of Environment Mok Mareth.

Villager Touch Sopheap, 40, said yesterday that about 100 people from his village gathered at the Re­am commune office last Wed­nes­day to ask for a solution after learning of the deadline a few days earlier.

“Now I am concerned to have to move without any solution or compensation,” Mr Sopheap said, adding that he had been a resident since 1998.

Iv Hy, deputy commune chief, said he had sent a petition signed by 90 villagers to the district governor asking for a solution.

“Now we are waiting results from the district governor,” Mr Hy said. District governor Tep Vuthy de­clined to comment via telephone, saying he was driving a car.

Bun Narith, provincial coordinator for the human rights group Li­ca­dho, urged the authorities “to find any solution acceptable to all of them.’

The 2008 letter signed by Mr Mar­eth accused villagers of illegally living on the reservoir site, which is in Pre­ah Sihanouk’s Ream National Park, according to a copy. The letter threatened “measures according to the law” if residents are not gone by Saturday.

Muhibbah Engineering Cambo­dia, a subsidiary of Malaysia-based Muhibbah Engineering, was hired to build the reservoir, the letter said.

Company representative Men Praseth said he thought only 50 or 60 families lived at the site.

“My company is not involved in granting compensation or moving villagers’ houses,” he said. “It is important that authorities solve the problem with villagers and we will keep going with our plan.”

Khek Norinda, spokesman for Soc­iete Concessionnaire des Aer­oports, said neither SCA nor the Preah Siha­nouk province airport were aware of the planned reservoir. Environment Min­istry officials could not be reached.

(Additional reporting by Clancy McGilligan)

 

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