Villagers Near Naga Casino To Be Evicted

Koh Pich villagers who have refused an offer of compensation from Phnom Penh Municipality to vacate their island homes will be evicted, Municipal Deputy Governor Pa Socheatevong said on Monday.

Pa Socheatevong said by phone Monday that the government will continue working with villagers on a compensation deal for their land, located on Pich island across the Bassac River from NagaCorp Casino. But, Pa Socheatevong warned: “If the villagers do not want [it], City Hall will take their land anyway.”

About 80 villagers met with City Hall Deputy Governor Pa Socheatevong last week after protesting outside his offices against an order to vacate their homes by early January.

“We do not want any compensation from the city hall,” said Chhum Sam Oeurn, representative for the villagers. “We want to stay on the island.”

Villagers have instead appealed directly to Prime Minister Hun Sen and King Norodom Siha­moni to intervene on their behalf.

Addressing their concerns to Prime Minister Hun Sen in a letter Thursday, the villagers stated that they have enough documentation to prove they have owned the land since 1989. “Only Prime Minister Hun Sen can help us because he announ­ced a war against powerful people who have encroached on villagers’ land,” Chhum Sam Oeurn said.

Moving from the island would make it difficult for families who would have to start new businesses and whose children would have to change schools. “We want the city to write us a contract that they will never remove us,” Chhum Sam Oeurn said.

Chan Soveth, spokesman for local rights group Adhoc, said the government should consider giving the 130 families who live on the island a lawyer to help with their case. But, he said, the villagers were probably wrong not to accept the offer of compensation.

“They cannot avoid accepting compensation,” Chan Soveth said. “If they do not want to accept the compensation, it is not a good choice.”



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