MORE than 50 demonstrators gathered on Saturday at the former site of the Group 78 community in Chamkarmon district to mark the one-year anniversary of an eviction that saw city officials clear the homes of 146 families for development.
“We’ve gathered here today to tell the government that it needs to give proper compensation to those who are evicted from their homes,” said Lim Sambo, a former resident of Group 78. “We need to make people aware of what happened to us.”
The Group 78 families claim they should have been eligible for ownership of their land under the 2001 Land Law, but that the government refused to accept their applications for land titles. Most were given US$8,000 in exchange for evacuating their homes.
Several residents said last week that this amount was not enough for them to buy new homes in the city. Instead, they said they had been forced to move to remote resettlement sites such as Trapaing Anchanh, about 25 kilometres from the city.
“I decided to buy land in Trapaing Anchanh because it’s cheap,” said Pach Khan, one of the evicted residents.
He was among the former Group 78 residents who said they needed to continue working in the capital despite having moved away from it, resulting in higher transportation costs.
“I’m a moto-taxi driver,” he said. “I can’t do any business where I live now. That’s why I have to come to the city to work.”
Beyond this inconvenience, rights workers say moving to sites like Trapaing Anchanh results in a much poorer quality of life overall.
“Generally, families find themselves living in greater poverty, with worse access to drinking water, electricity and poor sanitation. As a consequence they can suffer from more health problems,” said Janice Beanland, spokeswoman for Amnesty International Southeast Asia.
City Hall officials could not be reached on Sunday. Last week, however, Mann Chhoeun, the former deputy governor who was in charge of the Group 78 evictions, reiterated his earlier argument that the families had no right to the land because it was state-owned.
Saturday’s demonstration allowed families affected by various land disputes to try to raise awareness about their respective situations. About 30 of the demonstrators said they face eviction from the Boeung Kak lake area, where a controversial development project threatens to force thousands of families from their homes.
“We’re here to join together, to protect our land,” said Rous Saen, a 73 year-old Boeung Kak resident. “The pain of the Group 78 families is just like the pain of people from Boeung Kak. We are all victims.”