Victims of Land Evictions Speak Out at World Habitat Day Event

Forced evictions and land rights took center stage yesterday as Cam­bodians celebrated World Habitat Day at an event organized by housing rights NGOs and the UN.

Speaking before a sea of pink T-shirts and baseball caps handed out to mark the occasion, former Group 78 resident Lem Sambo said that members of his community have faced many challenges since they were evicted from their Phnom Penh neighborhood in July.

“We could not use the money to buy a proper house in the city, and we are vulnerable to eviction a second time,” he said.

“Please pay the people fair and equal amounts of compensation,” Mr Sambo pleaded. “Please stop evicting people from the city.”

On the sidelines of yesterday’s event, former Dey Krahorm community member Nget Keo said that she could never forget her January eviction and relocation to a site in Dangkao district.

“I cannot ever forget that they cleared us all out and made us live away from the city,” Ms Keo said. “My house, my pots, my plates and other property were destroyed.”

Srey Mom, who also lived in Dey Krahorm before it was cleared out, said that she gets angry every time she thinks about the eviction. “They immediately cleared the land. I lost all the stuff I had saved,” she said, adding that her children have only started to attend school now, eight months after they left the city.

“My children have begun to go to school, just now. When we were [in Dey Krahorm] my child just walked across the street and there was the school,” Ms Mom said.

Phnom Penh Deputy Municipal Governor Mann Chhoeun said by telephone yesterday that the government always tries to treat people living on disputed land carefully and compensates them fairly.

“We’ve already solved this problem,” he said. “This is an old issue; we never want to take administrative actions against these people because we know that they have many children.”

  (Additional reporting by Bethany Lindsay)


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