siem reap – More than 100 squatter families raided by military police in August will be moved to a hilly, forested area some 70 km north of Siem Reap town, according to a letter by provincial Governor Chap Nhalivuth.
The letter, dated Sept 15, asks local officials to find land for the 135 squatter families in the Srey Noy commune of Banteay Srei district.
The families must move because their squatter settlement on the grounds of a former military hospital in Siem Reap belongs to the Ministry of Defense, provincial authorities said.
Local officials have been ordered to report on the preparation of the new settlement to the governor by Oct 11.
Three people were seriously injured in mid-August when military police roughly rousted about 100 people from their makeshift homes.
Nearly 20 people from the settlement went to Phnom Penh to protest outside the National Assembly Aug 18 after filing a complaint with the Ministry of Interior.
The families, many of whom sell vegetables to make a living, said this week that they don’t want to go to the new location because it is too far away from the market areas of Siem Reap, and there are no hospitals nearby.
They also are afraid they will get malaria, saying they know children who have died in the forests of Srey Noy.
“People will not go if they are asked to live in the Srey Noy commune,” 50-year-old Vith Soeun, a vegetable seller, said Wednesday.
Instead, the squatters are asking the government to give $1,000 to each family to find land and build homes.
The families are also asking for help from Prime Minister Hun Sen, Queen Norodom Monineath, King Norodom Sihanouk and NGOs.
Suy San, second deputy governor of Siem Reap province, said if the families refuse to go to Srey Noy, the government doesn’t have any other solutions for them because most of the land in Siem Reap already is owned by others and is expensive to buy.
“We have no land to give around Siem Reap,” he said.
Tho Theavy, a local coordinator of the Cambodian human rights group Adhoc, said she agrees with the government’s proposal to move the families to Srey Noy.
“It is better for them because maybe they’ll have proper homes and a place where they can grow food,” she said.
Squatters acknowledge they are living in poor conditions now, but say they don’t have the resources to move.
“We are dying because we lack food,” said 28-year-old El Sopoan, also a vegetable seller.
“Whenever the rain comes, we get wet because we don’t have proper shelter.”