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Anxious villagers hold out for eviction deadline

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Villagers who have been ordered to relocate from a community near Phnom Penh International Airport go to meet with Por Sen Chey district officials last week. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post

More than 100 families from three villages in Por Sen Chey district’s Choam Chao commune were due to be ejected from their homes, marking the end of a harrowing seven day notification period after learning last week they would be forced out without compensation.

Flanking Phnom Penh International Airport’s southern-most fence, the village structures were “anarchic”, according to an eviction letter signed by District Governor Kit Sopha last Wednesday, which said the homes would be destroyed after seven days if the residents failed to leave.

But the villagers refused to budge, and have instead sought intervention from the Phnom Penh municipality to appeal for compensation for land they say is rightfully theirs.

Resident Kong Dina said not one family had moved, and was hopeful the notification period would be extended.

“If we do not get compensation now, we want the municipality to intervene and delay the deadline,” she said.

Another resident, Kheng Chey Lim, said she was worried by the impending deadline.

“It is unfair. We bought the house with money.”

She said most of the residents had lived in the commune for five years, some up to 10, and had received permission to build there with signatures from district and commune officials.

However, Housing Rights Task Force Secretariat-General Sia Phearum said he expected the eviction deadline to be extended due to the increased resistance.

“I don’t think they will evict at this stage because people are standing up for their rights – they have advocated at City Hall and sent a petition letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“They are showing the government they are not illegally occupying land – they have signatures of commune and district chiefs saying they have the land titles and are the owners, if local authorities signed the papers does this mean their acts were in fact illegal?”

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said the eviction was a serious violation of hu­man rights.

District Governor Sopha could not be reached for comment yesterday.-

To contact the reporters on this story: Sen David at david.sen@phnompenhpost.com
Claire Knox at newsroom@phnompenhpost.com

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