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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Squatters housing plans hooked into the rough

Squatters housing plans hooked into the rough

THE much-maligned community of Phnom Penh squatters have apparently had plans

for a permanent home dashed again - by the developers of a golf

course.

Twenty hectares of land in Beung Srayap commune, about five kms

northwest of Phnom Penh, has now been reserved for a golf course, Nith Sopha,

coordinator of the Urban Sector Group, said.

Kry Meng Hong, vice-governor

of Phnom Penh Municipality, said that he had just come back from Africa and

could not comment, but did say that he heard one of his governors propose the

land for a golf course.

In 1992, Concern International placed 500

squatter families from Phnom Penh to Kopsrove commune, about 15 kms away, but

the families returned in droves when their grounds flooded.

Meng Hong

said since then the city had been looking the money to buy suitable land for the

squatters but had yet been able to find any.

"People complain that we do

not consider the squatters," he said.

"You see, all the land is already

occupied and it's expensive. No land is free or suitable for the squatters. Many

NGOs have been pledged to help but there is no money on hand. "

Sopha

said that the land now marked for the golf course belongs to government. It had

been abandoned for many years, and only recently had a few houses been erected

there.

"We want the government to provide the land. NGOs such as Asian

Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR), PADEK and UNICEF, are going to help fund,

build, provide water, education and credit," she said.

Meng Hong said

that many squatters had their own houses in the provinces, but came into Phnom

Penh to make money.

They created problems, he said.

"You see, they

are the slum of our city. And they the source of robbery, prostitution and

gambling, " he said.

Sopha responded that it was not only the squatters

who broke the law, but ministers' sons used to rob and gamble. "In every corner

of Phnom Penh there is a brothel, not just in squatters' areas," she

said.

She said the local municipal authority had asked money from

squatters for permission to build the houses, provided ID cards and legal

addresses - but later asked them to quit the city.

Nok Ing, 52, from

Svay Rieng, who is living on the bank of Bassac River told the Post that he gave

50,000 riel to a policeman in this district for his settlement - but he is still

having to squat illegally.

About 1,600 families - 12,000 people - have

been living on the river bank, road sides and roof tops since 1990. They have

jobs ranging from construction workers, moto-taxi and cyclo drivers, garbage

collectors and government workers.

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