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Poor residents of Siem Reap fear eviction for park project

SIEM Reap residents near Wat Damnak have expressed concern about plans for a riverside park and road – the construction of which is scheduled to begin next month – that officials say will displace more than half of the families living there.

Siem Reap city Governor Tep Bunchhay said Tuesday that the park and road project will not affect residents of the area at first, but that 33 of the area’s 60 families will eventually be forced to move to a relocation site in Run Ta Ek commune.

Tep Vettho, director of the Apsara Authority’s city heritage department, said her office was preparing the relocation site, though she added that she did not know when it would be ready.

Construction on the beautification project will begin by the end of February, she said, adding: “We’ve already told the villagers.”

But Lach Sovann, a 48-year-old disabled widow who lives near the proposed park, said she had received little information about the beautification project and did not know what would happen to her home.

“I’m worried because it will be expensive to find a new home, and I haven’t been able to earn a lot recently,” she said.

Eap Bunheang, 49, who also lives there, said officials had told the villagers about the construction plans but had not said when they would be forced to leave.

Tep Bunchhay said that some of the 27 families who will not be forced to move had requested land titles for their property, though he added that he did not know whether that would be possible to arrange.

Moeun Mao, 46, a resident of the area, whose house is not slated for destruction, said she was hoping to make the most of the situation by opening a motorbike repair shop after the road is built.

“Sometimes I’m happy about the new road plan, but sometimes I’m worried about the future,” she said.

The park and road project is being funded by a US$300,000 grant from France, Tep Bunchhay said.

The project is part of a broader Siem Reap beautification effort that officials have said will ultimately displace some 300 families.

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