ABOUT 10 residents of a community living near the Lycee Francais Rene Descartes school in Phnom Penh petitioned the French embassy Thursday to intervene in advance of their impending eviction by city authorities.
"We are [here] to ask the French ambassador to save us from eviction by the municipality," said resident representative Kem Vichet.
He added that during a meeting Wednesday, city officials told residents to pull down their houses by May 15, or authorities would take unspecified "administrative measures" and would bear no responsibility for any property lost.
During the protest, two community representatives were allowed to enter the embassy and present officials with a letter outlining their concerns.
"We agree that the government should give back the former National Institute of Business to the French embassy, but City Hall's compensation is not enough for us to find new houses," Kem Vichet added.
But Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun said that about 70 percent of the residents had already agreed to the city's offer of empty land in Meanchey district, in addition to between US$5,000 and $10,000 per family.
"I have advised them that if they don't want to live in their new location, they can buy new houses," he said. "The prices are only $5,000 to $6,000, and the location has clean water networks, electricity, a smooth road and a market, so it is easy to do business."
Around 37 families living on the site near the school were fenced out of their homes on April 6. Residents say the French embassy is involved in the transfer of the land to the school, a claim previously confirmed by district officials.
Fabyene Mansencal, first secretary of the embassy, said she could not comment as she had not yet read the residents' letter.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEBASTIAN STRANGIO