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New park to displace locals

HUNDREDS of families living along the Tonle Sap river will be evicted to make way for a public park, Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said yesterday.

Speaking at a ceremony in Russey Keo district to inaugurate construction of the park, Kep Chuktema said he had ordered municipal officials to spread information about the impending relocation, the latest in a string of large-scale evictions in the capital in recent years.

“Local authorities who control the territory in this area must post announcements about this immediately so that the people are ready to pull down their homes,” he said.

Chan Samang, chief of Russey Keo commune, said roughly 500 families in his jurisdiction would be displaced by the project, planned for the western shore of the Tonle Sap near National Road 5. Tuol Sangke commune chief Soy Kosal said more than 200 families in his commune would be affected, and Srah Chak commune chief Chay Thirith put the total in his commune at more than 100 households.

“These structures were built without permission from the authorities,” Kep Chuktema said, gesturing towards homes on the river’s edge in Russey Keo commune. “If those people do not pull down their houses themselves, City Hall will consider dismantling them.”

Kim Sreang, 26, a resident of Russey Keo commune’s Klaing Saing village, said she would comply the with the city’s plans, provided that she was offered reasonable compensation. “I will accept the order to pull down my house if [Kep Chuktema] agrees to pay us the fair, market price for our homes,” Kim Sreang said. Commune officials had yet to announce the plans for her community, she said.

Heu Heng, general director of Sokimex Company, said at the event that the park would be roughly 250 metres long and 100 metres wide, and would likely be completed in six months. Sokimex, which has a petroleum depot on National Road 5 near the proposed park, is providing US$700,000 to support the project, Heu Heng said.

“We expect that people will be happy when they come and visit this park and take in the fresh air,” Heu Heng said. “It will beautify our city and make it more attractive for locals and international tourists.”

Kep Chuktema praised the “social responsibility” Sokimex had exhibited in taking on the project.

“This shows goodwill that we must recognise and try to follow ourselves,” he said.

To the west of the proposed park, more than 4,000 families living on the Boeung Kak lakeside are set to be displaced by a firm owned by Senator Lao Meng Khin of the Cambodian People’s Party.

Last month, Prime Minister Hun Sen signed a sub-decree designating the land as “state private property” and clearing the way for its development.



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