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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Squatters lose homes at Monivong Bridge

Squatters lose homes at Monivong Bridge

Phnom Penh Municipal Police began demolition of squatter housing around the Monivong

Bridge in the city's Meanchey District on Feb 23, forcibly evicting many of the estimated

400 residents.

Angry evictee Pen Sinaran doesn't want to move

Authorities justified the demolition and evictions both on security grounds as well

as preparation for a river beautification development which will stretch from Hun

Sen Park to Monivong Bridge.

The evictions will eventually extend to the riverside squatter communities of Chhbar

Ampov 1 and Chhbar Ampov 2, home to approximately 4,000 people.

The vast majority of the demolished dwellings were guest houses used by market vendors

and laborers from the provinces.

"We've ordered all house owners who live within 500 meters of the bridge to

vacate," Chhbar Ampov 1 Chief Prach Seiha said.

According to Seiha, the police letter he received on Feb 27 authorizing the evictions

listed the riverside development as the reason for the police action.

But Seiha says that lingering security concerns about the possible presence of members

of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters (CFF), which was linked to the Nov 24, 2000 street

fighting, was also a motivation for the evictions.

"District authorities have difficulties in controlling newcomers who stay in

the area's guest houses," Seiha said. "CFF and other terrorist groups might

use the guest houses as places to shelter."

Phnom Penh Municipal Governor Chea Sophara told the Post on Feb 27 that the presence

of the squatters was environmentally damaging.

"They defecate into the [Bassac] river and utilize the river water. This affects

the environment," he said

Pen Sinaran, 34, was angered by the demolition of two guest houses that she says

she built on land for which she paid $9,000.

Going, going, gone - this riverside squatter settlement is slated for demolition.

Sinaran said the authorities offered to provide her 10 square meters of land in Rokar

Kos village in Ang Snuol District near Prey Sar prison in return for her demolished

guest houses, but the price was unreasonable

"I will not go there because it is far away from the market," she said

of her rejection of the land offer. "I cried and asked them not to ransack my

houses, but they did not listen."

Riverside resident Sok Kim Heng, 63, accuses the Municipal authorities responsible

for the demolition of "trickery".

"They said they'd pull down only guest houses, but the police told me that they'll

pull down my home after Khmer New Year," she said. "If they try to do that

I will splash acid on them."

Resident complaints about the evictions were described by Seiha as unreasonable.

"These people got their eviction notices three months ago," he said. "But

some of these people were too stubborn to move."

Chea Sophara pledges to continue the evictions and demolition until the Bassac riverside

area between Hun Sen Park and Monivong Bridge is clear of all structures.

"We will carry out our long-term plan until all the houses are removed,"

he said.



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