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)