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.