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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Departure Day looms for Tonle Bassac squatters

Departure Day looms for Tonle Bassac squatters

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A family outside their house in Tonle Bassac's Village 14, also known as Sambok Chab, or the Birds' Nest.

A

bout 1,500 families living in Phnom Penh's Tonle Bassac Village 14, who are squatting

on land deemed to belong to Suor Srun Enterprises (SSE), will be removed in March

to a site in Dangkor district, a company representative said.

Khui Chhor, assistant to Suor Pheng, SSE's owner, said the company had bought a 10-hectare

plot of land in Dangkor district, is bulldozing the land and expects to finish next

week.

Chhor said the Dangkor site - 17km outside of Phnom Penh - already has water and

electricity and the company will build toilets and roads and will consider building

a school at a later date. Each family will receive a plot 4 meters by 12 meters on

which to build a house.

"We have reached an agreement between the company and the people in the community,"

Chhor said. "I don't think there will be any change; we have accepted all their

proposals."

He said the Phnom Penh municipality had set up a committee and would call the villagers

within a week for a meeting to divide the land and ask for their final decision.

Hing Sophanara, deputy chief of the Bassac squatter community in Village 14, also

known as Sambok Chab, or the Birds' Nest, said the community and company representatives

met last week; 80 percent of the squatters had agreed to move to the Dangkor location.

He said two big local companies wanted to buy the land from SSE for development,

but were waiting for the squatter community to be moved.

Sophanara said community leaders had visited the land in Dangkor district, west of

Chumpo Voan High School, many times and wanted SSE to buy the land and give it to

the inhabitants of Village 14.

"The people here [in Sambok Chab] want to leave soon," he said. "They

don't want to live in fear as they do at the moment. But, he added, "According

to the number of people in the community, SSE needs [to buy and distribute] at least

15 hectares of land."

SSE's Chhor denied the Bassac land was being transferred to any other company. He

said SSE had asked the other companies for help in removing the people from the slum

because the companies had previous experience.

Mong Reththy, General Director of Mong Reththy Group, told the Post last month that

he had plans for the Sambok Chab land, and had talked with SSE's Suor Pheng. Later

he learned that it was very complicated because of the squatters, so he changed his

mind.

Reththy said he had heard that the land had been transferred to Kith Meng, president

of the Chamber of Commerce and owner of Royal Group and Mobitel companies. When contacted

by the Post Kith Meng declined comment.

Mea Sopheap, chief of Sangkat Tonle Bassac, said the people in the community were

waiting for city hall to call them to a meeting, because the people had accepted

the SSE's proposal and the company had already prepared the land.

Pa Socheatevong, deputy governor of Phnom Penh municipality, said the city had not

yet scheduled a meeting.

He said the squatters could not continue to live illegally on somebody else's land,

but it was the city's principle that SSE should find appropriate alternative land

for them.

"The company cannot force them to leave without anything," Pa Socheatevong

said. "They [the company] should find a suitable site that the people can accept."

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