USAID’s top official for East Asia visited the embattled Group 78 village in Phnom Penh on Monday and strongly endorsed the case of the residents—146 families—against their threatened eviction by the municipality.
“Based on what I have heard, it looks like you are on a sound legal footing,” USAID’s Deputy Director of East Asian Affairs Dennis Sharma told families at the Group 78 village.
Sharma said he hoped the rule of law would prevail in the case and that the families would get fair compensation for their land.
Sharma’s visit Monday coincided with a deadline set by City Hall in its fifth eviction notice to Group 78 residents.
The most recent valuation by Bonna Realty of the 11,700 square meters of land on which the Group 78 residents live totaled just over $14 million.
The residents of Group 78, many of whom have land-ownership documents dating back to the 1980s, are being offered $1,000 per family to move to a remote part of Dangkao district, some 20 km away.
Municipal authorities say they must move Group 78 to make way for a new road to access a bridge that will span the Bassac river to Koh Pich Island.
Representatives of the Cambodian Legal Education Center stayed overnight in Group 78 village on Sunday following rumors that the eviction would get underway in the early hours of Monday morning.
No action, however, was taken against Group 78 by Monday evening though Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said the eviction would be carried out.
“We will do it later,” Kep Chuktema said, but declined to elaborate.
“These people live on someone else’s land so they must be removed,” he said.
Group 78 resident Say Sophal, 68, said he did not sleep well Sunday night, as he was frightened that the eviction notice would be carried out during the night.
“We were lucky this time but probably not next time,” he added.