AROUND 20 families living close to Phnom Penh International Airport in Dangkor district began tearing down parts of their homes on Sunday, villagers said, in compliance with an eviction deadline handed down by municipal authorities last month.
Local resident Chea Sophoan, 32, said on Sunday that villagers had tried to meet the city’s deadline in order to minimise the amount of damage, which he said would likely have been greater if the authorities had forcibly removed them.
“Today we are tearing down some parts of our houses because we are afraid that if they use excavators to demolish our houses everything will be affected,” he said.
On January 15, Kakab commune authorities sent residents a letter giving them 15 days to remove those parts of their houses set to be affected by the construction of drains for a flood-prevention project.
Chea Sophoan said some villagers stand to lose their entire houses to the construction project, whereas others merely had to remove the parts that impinged on the planned construction zone.
“I don’t know whether they will tear down my whole house, because I have removed around 12 metres of it already,” he added.
Leng Rottana, 52, a resident from Chamkar Ovlek village, said authorities had provided no help to villagers in the removal of their homes, and had not told them whether they would receive compensation after leaving the site voluntarily.
“The authorities did not talk with us – they just came with their excavators, making some villagers afraid and forcing them to dismantle their houses,” he said.
He added that some families had been forced to remove rooms that they were renting out to local tenants, thus depriving them of a great deal of their income.
Meanwhile, local authorities praised the villagers for abiding by the municipal eviction order, but warned that any laggards would be removed by force. “Today a lot of villagers are tearing the affected part of their houses – nobody has refused,” said Sok El, the chief of Kakab commune.
“Even if there are some villagers who were stubborn and did not tear down their homes, we would still do it because we are enforcing City Hall’s order.”
According to a survey conducted by local rights group Adhoc, 74 communities in Phnom Penh have been earmarked for eviction in the near future, and the displacements could potentially affect tens of thousands of people.
Chan Soveth, an Adhoc investigator, said Sunday that the drainage project had deprived the families of their right to adequate housing.
“When the government wants to develop in the people’s area and evict them to a new relocation site, it is the duty of government to province compensation for the people,” he said.