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Friendly bridge raises alarm

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Construction work on a new Chinese-funded bridge over the Tonle Sap river continues in Phnom Penh. Residents affected by the project feel excluded from decisions about their resettlement.

Families who will be relocated to make way for a new Cambodian-Chinese friendship bridge said yesterday they were still being excluded from the process that will decide their resettlement.

Residents of Chroy Changvar commune, in the capital’s Russei Keo district, where more than 200 families are affected by the construction of the bridge, said they had not even been informed of an official meeting to discuss the resettlement process.

Municipal officials yesterday met with representatives from an inter-ministerial committee monitoring the project’s impact on local villagers.

Chan Sopheak, 29, a resident of Doem Kor village, said famil-ies living near the bridge construction site were becoming increasingly alarmed as construction progressed.

“We are very sorry when we overhear that there is a meeting about our houses but the authorities do not invite us to join it,” he said, adding that foundation posts for the bridge were nearly complete and construction on land would begin soon.

Por Chanphal, 39, another resident of Doem Kor village, said that last month, officials had come to count the number of families affected by the project and measure residents’ land plots.

“Those officials told us that they would bring their report to give to the inter-ministerial committee to evaluate to determine a compensation policy for us,” he said.

Meanwhile, residents in Daun Penh district’s Srah Chak commune, on the west bank of the river, said they had refused to comply with an order from district authorities to pull down their homes last month because they had not been offered resettlement options or compensation.

In an August 5 eviction notice, Daun Penh district governor Sok Sambath said he would take measures against “slums” near the construction site and would not be responsible for compensation if villagers did not leave within 15 days. “The district authority ordered us to pull down our homes, but they did not tell us where to relocate to, or [offer] compensation for us after we demolished our homes,” 28-year-old villager Pen Panha said.

Municipal deputy governor Noun Someth said officials were “discussing the issues [with the project] carefully”, but declined to provide further details about the meeting.

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