Police evicted and pushed 44 families to the outskirts of Phnom Penh on Saturday, a day after fire incinerated their small community behind the Hotel Inter-Continental, residents said Sunday.
Police and military police attempted to evict the families on Friday, in accordance with a Phnom Penh Municipal Court order. But villagers threw stones at the police, prompting authorities to beat and injure five inhabitants, said resident Mao Samorn on Sunday. A fire broke out during the struggle, burning the shantytown to the ground, residents said. It is unclear who or what started the fire. The final eviction came Saturday. Police declined to comment Sunday.
“We don’t know what we will do in the future because we are citizens and they have the power and weapons to crack down on us every time,” said resident Soy Mom, 18. “We are going to get it back, but we don’t know how to do it.”
The court ordered the eviction in compliance with a request from the landowner, Okhna Khov Sambath, said Kim Chhun Ou, Chamkar Mon district deputy governor.
“We authorities recognize that the land has belonged to him for a long time,” Kim Chhun Ou said on Sunday.
The landowner’s lawyer, Long Norin, said Khov Sambath permitted the families to stay on the land in the early 1990s because they were construction workers contracted by the Hotel Inter-Continental. The workers were asked to leave in 1994 and 1995, and recently were offered $200 to move, the lawyer said. But Khov Sambath retracted the offer when residents refused to budge.
Municipal Cabinet Chief Mann Chhoeun said Sunday that the families can temporarily stay on a piece of land in Dangkao district, near Prey Sar prison, but they must leave after three months.
The municipality has offered the families mosquito nets, blankets and plastic tents, he said.
“We cannot do any more because this is the court decision,” he said. “The people can find a new settlement by themselves.”