Siem Reap River Residents To Be Relocated

Around 700 families currently li­ving along the banks of the Siem Reap river will be relocated out of Siem Reap town because they are pol­luting the water system, a prov­incial official said Monday.

Choung Ratana, secretary-general of Siem Reap province  said the families consist mostly of la­bor­ers and rice farmers who settled in the area after the end of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979. He said the families will not receive mo­netary compensation for being re­­located be­­cause they do not hold land ti­tles.

“It is illegal [to live along the ri­ver]. They are squatters,”  Choung Ra­tana said Monday. He said the vil­lagers will be relocated to an area outside the town.

“We are trying to [move] them to a place that is near the markets, but the land in Siem Reap has be­come very expensive, so maybe the [resettlement] location will be far away,” Choung Ra­tana said.

The director of Siem Reap’s en­vironmental department, Chev Thol, corroborated Choung Rata­na’s comment that the families are polluting the river with household garbage and should be moved.

“If the authorities can organize them to move, it would be good,” he said. “The river is at­trac­tive for tourists.”

Ke Sovannaroth, a Sam Rainsy Par­­­ty lawmaker in Siem Reap prov­­­ince, blamed local authorities for allowing villagers to build houses on the riverbank.

“The authorities should have stopped the people in the first place,” Ke Sovannaroth said Mon­day.

“They never took any measures to prevent them [from squatting],” she said. “When they want to im­prove [an area], it affects the poor.”

Ke Sovannaroth suggested that the province should request assistance from NGOs to help compensate the villagers.

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