But May 5 deadline brings determination to remain at the site.
Group 78 resident Hnueng, a coconut seller, and her daughter outside their house on Monday. Residents are facing forced eviction at the hands of the Phnom Penh Municipality, which says they are living on a public road.
AHEAD of their May 5 eviction deadline, residents at the city's besieged Group 78 community say they are worried about an impending forced eviction but remain confident of their legal rights to the strip of land in Tonle Bassac commune.
"I am a little bit worried about the situation in the area after tomorrow's deadline because I heard City Hall will kick me out to the outskirts of the city," said resident Lim Likean, 64.
An eviction letter signed by Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema on April 20 said the 70 families were living on a public road and on land owned by Sour Srun Enterprises, a local developer, giving residents 15 days to accept compensation and vacate their properties.
After this time, it said authorities would take unspecified "administrative measures", and that City Hall would bear no responsibility for any property lost.
Community representative Lim Sambo said he was also worried but was "depending on the law" to solve the dispute peacefully.
"Tomorrow if the authorities come to enforce their eviction letter ... I will not fight back. I will go out from my house with empty hands because I don't want to have an argument," he said.
He added that commune officials had set up a table at the site Monday, encouraging people to sign forms accepting the municipality's compensation package. City Hall has offered residents US$5,000 cash and a 5-metre-by-12-metre plot of land in the city's Dangkor district in exchange for moving out ahead of Tuesday's deadline.
Scared of expulsion
Lim Sambo said nine out of the community's 70 families had taken the cash and land package out of fear they will meet a similar fate to the nearby Dey Krahorm community, forcibly evicted in January. But other residents said they would ignore compensation offers and hold out to the end.
I WILL GO OUT FROM MY HOUSE WITH EMPTY HANDS BECAUSE I DON't WANT [TO ARGUE].
"I will not move out or accept City Hall's compensation because the eviction letter said all residents living on Sour Srun's land and the public road must move out in 15 days, but they did not mention the residents in Group 78. So it doesn't concern us," said Lim Likean.
The Group 78 community in Tonle Bassac commune could face eviction beginning Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the community's lawyers filed a complaint at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court requesting a delay of the eviction deadline.
But Sourng Sophea, a lawyer at the Community Legal Education Centre, said all involved parties had been summoned to court May 18, leaving Group 78 families open to eviction in the meantime.
"We asked the court to postpone the eviction, but [they] said they had no time to look at the case. We are very worried about [an eviction] because the court's procedures are very slow," he said.
Fiona Cochaud, first secretary of the Australian embassy, said she was aware of the plight of the community, which sits next door to the country's new embassy compound, but said it was "not appropriate" for the Australian government to comment on specific land dispute cases.
But she said the embassy had "encouraged local authorities and citizens to work together to find mutually acceptable, equitable ways to resolve issues relating to land disputes".
Tonle Bassac commune Chief Khat Narith said he would "comply with City Hall's orders" but that he did not know what would happen after Tuesday's deadline.
Mann Chhoeun, the deputy governor, could not be reached for comment Monday, but according to municipal timetables, he is to chair a meeting of the Urban Poor Development Fund at 8am today.
At the meeting, the fund is scheduled to procure 50 million riels (US$12,124) from Sour Srun Enterprises to help shift residents from Group 78 to the relocation site at Dangkor district's Trapaing Anhchanh village.