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River-widening project to displace 600 families

More than 600 families living along the Siem Reap riverside are to be relocated at the beginning of next year by the government, a top provincial official said yesterday.

The families will be evicted as part of a provincial government plan to widen the river to alleviate regular flooding in the town, in addition to constructing communal gardens on the riverside, Siem Reap deputy governor So Platong told the Post.

“Those houses will be relocated to new sites in Sambuor commune, four kilometres away from the city centre. We have informed them [that they will need] to relocate at the beginning of 2014,” he said.

Platong added that government buildings sitting along the riverside would also have to be relocated, including the Siem Reap police station and commune office.

Residents will be forced to move from a five-kilometre stretch of riverside starting from the Kong Much pagoda near the centre of town to the village of Chong Srok.

“More than 640 families and 735 houses will be relocated next year as they have lived illegally on government property, negatively affected the environment and polluted the river for many years,” Platong said.

Although they have been living on government land, residents say their houses have been there for almost 30 years.

Huol Moeun, 64, whose family is set to be relocated, said the authorities were yet to inform her of exactly when she would have to move.

She added that the government had measured her land before the election in order to calculate the amount of compensation she should receive – a paltry $800 for a seven-by-15 metre plot of land.

“I really don’t want to leave, as I don’t know anything about the new site. [We don’t know if there will be] electricity, water, a school, a pagoda or a health centre,” she said.

“I heard from people who have already moved there that it is hard to live because it is also in a flooded area.”

The announcement that these families will be relocated follows the eviction last year of another 500 families from a different stretch of the river as part of the same project.

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