Holding pictures of Prime Minister Hun Sen, King Norodom Sihamoni and retired King Norodom Sihanouk, some 50 residents, mostly women and children, living next to the Preah Monivong Hospital held a peaceful protest on the disputed land Tuesday morning against their scheduled eviction.
The protest marked the deadline for 53 police officials living on the site to vacate their homes in the community.
“There is Hun Sen, there is justice in society,” one banner read, while another said residents have been living there since 1988 and have been recognized by local authorities.
For several months, 168 families living in the community built along the hospital’s northern boundary have been trying to avoid eviction from the Interior Ministry-owned site, which has reportedly been traded to private business for redevelopment.
On Sept 20, policemen living at the community met at the Interior Ministry with Muek Dara, director of the anti-drug department, and a senior national police official, according to minutes compiled by residents who attended the meeting.
Residents were told that the government is leasing out the hospital land to the Royal Group of companies for 99 years, because the government does not have enough money to develop the country, according to a copy of the minutes obtained Tuesday.
Kith Meng, chairman of the Royal Group, declined comment, though in January he confirmed he was in talks to rent the site, redevelop the facility and build on the retaining property.
The minutes also note that residents were told that authorities were not afraid to disperse those who refuse to leave.
“We could even defeat the [Khmer Rouge] guerrillas and crack down on hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, so we can easily crack down on you,” the residents were allegedly told, according to the minutes.
Two residents who attended the meeting confirmed the contents of the minutes on Tuesday.
Muek Dara declined comment on the meeting, while Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be contacted.
(Additional reporting by Prak Chan Thul)