Plans to relocate Phnom Penh squatters onto a palm oil plantation in Sihanoukville are moving ahead slowly, with hundreds of people applying and construction beginning on the site, municipal officials said Thursday.
Mann Chhoeurn, chief of cabinet for the Phnom Penh Municipality, said that although many squatters had expressed interest in the project, the city has not yet selected the first group of 100 families.
The applicants will be vetted to make sure they are healthy and have “good behavior,” Mann Chhoeurn said.
He did not know when the first group might move to the site, but officials have said that it probably will not be until next year.
The relocation was proposed in September by Mong Reththy Import-Export Co. as a way of finding workers for its new 3,557-hectare plantation near the border with Koh Kong province.
Construction is under way on toilets and water tanks for 100 homes, and some roads have been completed. A company representative said it is hoped that Second Prime Minister Hun Sen might contribute funds for a hospital and more wooden houses. A Japanese organization has offered to build a school, the company spokesman said.
A palm oil processing factory that the company says will employ 1,000 people is to be built early next year. When not working at the factory, plantation residents will be able to grow rice and vegetables on 2-hectare patches of land and sell the produce to the factory.
Although the plan has been described as progressive by municipal officials, squatter representatives have greeted the idea cautiously. Their main complaint has not yet been resolved. Mong Reththy’s representative said the company would not give the squatters the right to buy and sell the houses, as demanded by squatter representatives.
The squatters say they need the right of ownership or people will have no money to be able to leave the plantation.
But Mong Reththy’s representative said the company would not alter its policy.