Vietnamese Must Leave Pagoda, Court Says

About 85 ethnic Vietnamese families living in wooden shacks on the grounds of Wat Chak Angre Leur in Phnom Penh soon will be homeless because of a recent Supreme Court ruling ordering their removal.

But their removal from the temple, which borders the Bassac River in Meanchey district, is pending while human rights organizations­—led by the UN Office of the High Commis­sioner for Human Rights­—work to find a new location for them.

“I don’t think [the removal] is imminent because [municipal authorities] know we are looking for alternative housing for them,” said Rita Reddy, director of the UN rights center in Phnom Penh. The ruling, made last week, has not been formally delivered to the temple, according to Em Sokleang, deputy governor of Meanchey district. Em Sokleang said Thursday that the decision will not be enforced until two weeks after the villagers receive copies of the verdict.

Vietnamese immigrants first took up residence at the temple after the Khmer Rouge regime was toppled in 1979 by a Viet­namese military invasion, officials and rights workers said.

Recently, monks at the temple had complained that holding religious ceremonies was difficult because of noise created by the villagers, according to Kek Galabru, director of Licadho, a local rights organization monitoring the removal of the villagers.

Last November, more than 350 Vietnamese villagers living in floating homes and sampans were removed from a location on the Bassac River, south of the Monivong Bridge near Wat Chak Angre Leur.

Authorities said then that the approximately 1,000 Vietnamese villagers living in Meanchey district were illegal immigrants, a claim that human rights groups questioned.



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