Villagers Fear Loss of Homes to Bridge Project

Chbar Ampov commune is awash in worry. Rumors of a mass eviction have circulated for days, fol­low­ing a visit by police who said homes would be razed to make way for a new bridge.

No one has provided full details of the impending construction, villagers said Monday, leaving them fear­­ful sthey will be kicked off the Mean­­chey district land with no­where to go and no compensation.

“Now it’s been a whole week of people discussing the new bridge,” said Y Sotha, 40, standing outside his home. “But no one has come from City Hall or from municipal of­fices to tell us about plans.”

His neighbor, Be Chi Nith, also age 40, was nearby.

“For me, I’m very, very nervous,” he said, standing before the Bassac river­­bank soup shop he recently bought. “I’m so worried about how much I can get from the government, because I haven’t made a pro­f­it from this shop yet.”

Though they have not finished a feasi­­bility study or determined full de­tails regarding construction, muni­­cipal officials say they plan to evict residents whose homes stand in the way of three proposed Phnom Penh bridges.

Under the municipality’s proposal, one new bridge would run alongside the Japanese Friendship Bridge. Another would span the Bas­­­sac river, connecting Takhmau town to a feeder road linked with Na­tional Road 1. The third would also run across the Bassac, standing near the Monivong Bridge, emptying traffic onto Route 1—slicing through the community where Y So­tha and Be Chi Nith live and work. Officials said they are seeking $50 million from domestic and foreign investors to fund the construction.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheatavong said bidding would close within the next two months and that a feasibility study could take up to five more months. He did not say why bidding would close before the study was finished.

Municipal officials aren’t sure how many people would be evicted for the new bridges, but Pa Soch­eat­a­vong said the city has both money and land for those displaced.

“We definitely have a solution for people,” he said, though he would not give an estimate of how much the city would pay out or say where the other land was located. He add­ed that he has been in contact with local officials and asked for lists of villagers effected by the construction.

Meanchey district Deputy Gov­ernor Ngem Sokleang, however, said he has received no information from the municipality beyond the fact that villagers would soon be kicked off the land.

“There is no special plan or order from the city yet,” he said. “I have no idea where people should go.”


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