The 5-meter-by-12-meter plots on the outskirts of the capital are lower than the surrounding rice fields, and contained pools of rainwater on Tuesday morning.
The school and market buildings were little more than metal frames, and a fiberboard police station was still being cobbled together at the site in Dangkao district’s Trapeang Krasang commune, where today an estimated 1,000 families living in Phnom Penh’s Tonle Bassac commune are scheduled to be relocated.
The muddy site is not connected to the city’s water supply, and on Tuesday there was neither electricity nor evidence of a plan to drain the soggy land.
Representatives of more than half of the 1,000 families who have agreed to leave the land between Phnom Penh’s Russian Embassy and Tonle Bassac river, in order to hand it over to Sour Srun Enterprises Co, Ltd, said after seeing the condition of the site that they will not leave today.
“My community will not move to the area [on Wednesday] because the area is not suitable for us to move in,” said Hour San, who claims to speak for 239 families and was visiting the site on Tuesday.
“We will have to stand in mud,” he said.
The Community Legal Education Center’s Public Interest Legal Advocacy Program, which is funded by USAID, drove journalists and village representatives to visit the unfinished site.
Nhiek Keo, who claims to represent 390 families, also said the site was inadequate.
“We cannot build a house in such a situation,” he said.
The relocation should be delayed, said Marie-Laurence Comberti, director of local child rights NGO Amade Cambodge, who was also present.
“They cannot move people out here [on Wednesday]. It is impossible,” she said. “There is not one plot that is not flooded.”
She added that several NGOs have estimated that it would cost an average of $2.50 per day for a person to travel the 22 km from the site in Dangkao to work in central Phnom Penh. Around 30 minutes into the visit, a group of about 30 villagers who said they supported today’s relocation arrived in a truck they said had been paid for by local government authorities.
One woman named Im Sophorn, 28, shouted at villagers who were complaining about the site to stop speaking.
“This is a proper place, there is water, there is a good view. We can have ownership here. It is very comfortable, with a market and health center,” she said.
Hour San alleged that the villagers in the truck had received 10 to 20 plots of land each for helping the company in its relocation efforts, though Im Sophorn said no one had hired her to oppose critics of the relocation.
Huy Chhor, a Sour Srun representative, said by telephone on Tuesday that the land was not flooded and claimed that the site was located on a hill. He added that government officials should use the law if the villagers refuse to leave Tonle Bassac today.
“If they refuse to go, let the authorities follow the law because they came to live on land illegally,” he said, adding that the firm may build a shopping mall at the Tonle Bassac site.
Deputy Municipal Governor Mann Chhoeun said by telephone that according to the 2001 Land Law, the villagers will have to live on the remote plots of land for five years before they can get land titles.
Mann Chhoeun referred questions about the condition of the site to Chamkar Mon district officials.
Chamkar Mon district Governor Lou Yuy said the families have a lot to look forward to. “It is the best place for the people to live. There is no better place,” he said.