Around 100 villagers who have been ordered to leave their homes on the edges of Phnom Penh’s Boeng Trabek lake protested outside Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house and at a nearby pagoda yesterday as authorities began clearing the land.
Villagers’ representative Khut Bunthan, 60, said residents gathered outside the premier’s home at about 6 am and handed a petition to an official from Mr Hun Sen’s Cabinet before resuming their demonstration outside Wat Botum.
Residents had been told to move to make way for improvements to the city’s drainage system.
Mr Bunthan said authorities have been using heavy machinery since Friday last week to dig up the land around the lake, including at least one hectare of land where villagers had planted their crops.
“I am very upset that authorities are encroaching onto villagers’ land…. Authorities are abusing people’s rights,” he said.
Another resident, 44-year-old Nov Mala, said villagers were being denied access to the land, in the city’s Chamkar Mon district.
“Authorities do not allow villagers to go onto their land,” she said.
The evictions were announced in a letter signed by district governor Lo Yuy in September, and villagers were given until Sept 27 to leave.
So far, residents have not been offered relocation or any form of compensation for their lost land.
Mr Yuy and deputy district governor Prom Samkhan said they were too busy to comment yesterday, but deputy municipal governor Pa Socheatvong said villagers did not have land titles to prove their ownership of the land in question.
“We will give the district authorities conducting this case more time” to solve it, he added.
The villagers’ petition has already been handed to the municipal government for review, according to Nov Ra, a member of the premier’s Cabinet.
Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor at rights group Licadho, said that while the city desperately needed a better drainage system, authorities should also consider the rights of villagers.
“I am very scared that the Boeng Trabek reservoir ends up like the Boeng Kak lake development,” he said.