Tomnup Toek commune villagers in Phnom Penh say proposed relocation site in Kandal province has no facilities and is too far away, leaving them no chance to earn a living
Raos Chiem, 70, in her temporary shelter on the former site of the
Tomnup Toek commune in Phnom Penh.
SEVERAL residents of Tomnup Toek commune in Phnom Penh have threatened violence if authorities try to evict them by force to Kandal province after an early morning fire on April 16 claimed the life of a 4-year-old girl and left 288 families homeless.
Resident representative Sao Rithy Kosal said the commune chief had told them their temporary shelters would be destroyed and they would be removed to Phnom Bat commune unless they left on Thursday.
"We won't allow the authorities to demolish our shelters, and we will fight back with stones," he said. "I want them to relocate us to the city's outskirts like Dangkor district, not far away like Phnom Bat. It is 50 kilometres away. How can we do business there? I would rather die here than move there."
Almost 150 houses were destroyed in the blaze. Police said they suspect it was set by Ros Sophan, 29, who was angry that his family would not give him 1,000 riels (US$0.25).
But commune Chief Chor Heng denied telling residents there was a Thursday deadline.
"The 288 families will be relocated to Kandal province, and each will get an empty plot of land measuring 4 metres by 6 metres. This is by order of City Hall," he told the Post. "But we don't know for certain when we will relocate them, and it is their right to turn down the relocation."
Chor Heng said the new site was better than any other. "It is close to a tourist area, and they can earn a living that way. Right now they are living in anarchy on the road. We are giving them land and it is good enough for them."
Resident Ouch Pov told the Post the authorities said residents had no choice.
"That's why we are here together. We didn't go to work today. Many of us are afraid they will demolish our shelters while we are away," he said.
Another resident representative, Horm Neun, said authorities had refused to show them the eviction letter.
"So how can we believe them? We want the governor to send us to the outskirts of the capital so we can still earn a living," he said. "We've seen the land on offer. It is in a flood area and there is no chance of running a business there. So if they use violence against us to demolish our shelters, we will do the same back to them."
Ouch Leng, a monitor with the rights group Adhoc, said authorities had shown an uncaring attitude.
"They must pay compensation before evicting people and shouldn't send them to a place far from health centres or schools, or somewhere they can't run a business," he said. "I doubt they will force them to leave on deadline. They will wait a week because they want people to keep quiet."
Neither the city's deputy governor, Mann Chhoeun, nor the governor of Chamkarmon district, Lo Yuy, were available for comment Thursday.