District authorities agreed on Wednesday to not relocate the hundreds of squatters living in Tonle Bassac commune despite earlier efforts to tear down houses at the squatter village.
The decision apparently came on Wednesday morning, after NGO workers gathered at the Tonle Bassac site in preparation for a scheduled forced removal of the squatters.
Chamkar Mon district Deputy Governor Kuch Chamroeun, who went to the site in the morning to view the area, said that the city will not move any squatters currently living on the land.
“We don’t have a plan to remove the squatters yet because we don’t have land for them [to relocate to],” Kuch Chamroeun said. He said, however, that he wanted to move the 435 families from the area because he “wants to reduce anarchy.”
Despite Kuch Chamroeun’s statement, NGO workers and people at the site tell a different story.
According to Tuy Someth, the national project manager for UN-Habitat, Kuch Chamroeun on Wednesday ordered the residents living at Tonle Bassac to move within 10 days.
Previous actions by the Chamkar Mon deputy governor show that the local authorities intended to move the squatters from the site as well.
On Monday, about 40 local police officers tore down 10 makeshift houses at the squatter site and would have razed more if local NGO representatives didn’t intervene, said several residents of the village on Wednesday.
“The police took down houses, but I called an NGO and they stopped,” said Hour San, the village chief of the squatter village. “But the people who are not registered to live at the site still must move.”
Kuch Chamroeun denied that he ordered the houses to be taken down, saying “I don’t abolish the houses, but I prevent anarchy by not allowing people to build new houses.”
Many squatters living at the site moved to the area after a massive fire swept through another squatter site located nearby in November 2001, leaving thousands homeless.
Only 10 families have registration documents showing that they can stay at the site legally, one NGO worker said Wednesday.