In a swift crackdown, security guards tore down the shelters of 12 families at the Borei Keila eviction site yesterday morning while they were at the Court of Appeal supporting imprisoned Beehive radio director Mam Sonando.
Three women, one of them holding a new-born baby, watched as 20 security guards, acting on behalf of the development firm Phan Imex, dismantled the bamboo structures, erected this week, and confiscated their possessions, evictees said.
Su Im said security guards had arrived at Borei Keila, in the capital’s Prampi Makara district, about 8:10am with instructions for villagers to get off land where their houses were demolished during a violent forced eviction on January 3 last year.
“Sa Ry, the leader of the security forces, told us to collect our stuff and leave. We didn’t, so they pulled down the shelters and seized our property,” she said.
“Although we face intimidation and detention, we will not leave until the company finds us a solution.”
After last year’s eviction, families were ordered to two relocation sites on the outskirts of Phnom Penh and in Kandal province — compensation that fell short of Phan Imex’s promise to build flats adjacent to the land that families agreed in 2004 to vacate for development.
Phan Imex owner Suy Sophan said the company had since sold that land to prominent businessman Sy Kong Triv, who said he was unaware of yesterday’s incident.
“Rebuilding on that piece of land is in violation of the new landowner’s rights,” Sophan said.
The incident came as the NGO Forum on Cambodia and World Vision launched a report revealing “widespread exclusions” from the government’s Systematic Land Registration (SLR) process in some villages in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville.
The report says 80 per cent of land parcels have not been titled in Tumnup village, in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok dist-rict, where “the SLR process was cut short during the survey and demarcation stage”.
“It is a concern to discover there are... high levels of exclusions and disputes, espec-ially in Phnom Penh, where land is highly valued,” NGO Forum executive director Chhith Sam Ath said.
Although these problems needed to be urgently addressed, the registration process, which began more than a decade ago, had been effective in rural areas, he said.
Teat Chamrouen, a representative of the provincial authority in Preah Sihanouk, said his office was working to ensure the registration process was thorough.
“If there are complications and disputes, however, there must be exclusions. There is a time frame for those, and excluded areas will be registered later,” he said.
In another effort to resolve a land dispute of their own, protesters from the Boeung Kak lake community, led by Tep Vanny, gathered outside the Ministry of Justice yesterday morning until officials agreed to discuss an appeal date for imprisoned activist Yorm Bopha.
“The ministry has agreed to send a letter to the Court of Appeal about Mrs Yorm Bopha,” Vanny said.
She added, however, that no time frame for an appeal had been given.