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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - 'Sun City' casts dark shadow over Chruoy Changvar

'Sun City' casts dark shadow over Chruoy Changvar


The sign shows the plan for 'Sun City' on land Prime Minister Hun Sen has already said lawfully belongs to the people living on it.

Aside from a brief interlude during the Khmer Rouge regime when, like all other residents

of Phnom Penh, she was forcibly removed from the city, Sok Lay, 47, has lived on

her family's plot of land in Chruoy Changvar since she was born.

The faded beauty of her lively face is arresting; her wrinkles describe life's highs

and lows. But Lay's brow has recently acquired fresh furrows: last year she heard

about plans to remove the residents from her area and she has been worrying ever


"I came back here [Chruoy Changvar] after the Khmer Rouge because I wanted to

live in the place I was born," she said. "When I first arrived living conditions

here were terrible. But I worked hard to survive and gradually things got better,

my quality of life improved, and now I am faced with losing it all."

Lay and her neighbors are going to have to make way: "SunCity Cambodia"

is coming.

A Malaysian corporation has signed a 70-year contract with the government to develop

a satellite city on 387 hectares of land in Chruoy Changvar, despite the fact that

the land to be developed - to the west of Route 6A - is already home to a community

of long-term residents like Lay, and at least a thousand well-established restaurants

and businesses.

"I am very worried about losing my land and my house because I have nowhere

to go," Lay said. "I was born here - my family has lived here for generations:

This piece of land has provided for my grandfather, my mother, and I want it to support

my grandchildren in the future."

Most of the area's residents have been living on their land for more than 10 years

and have documents to prove it, said Chhor Bessay, the representative of more than

1,000 families living on the land west of Route 6A. But as land prices in the area

soar, residents are increasingly worried that their property and businesses will

be taken from them without fair compensation.

"We are concerned that the compensation given under the government's policy

will not reflect the price of land on the current market," Bessay said. "We

have been living here for more than ten years but the government is claiming that

the land belongs to the state."

The standard rates of compensation offered by the government to people evicted from

state land are far lower than what the government, or indeed a private company, would

have to pay to obtain privately owned land for development purposes.

But residents such as Sok Lay are not optimistic that the documents they possess

- issued by local authorities - will help them get a fair deal.

"I have documents proving that I have lived here for many years," Lay said.

"And my documents are the same as those of the people on the other side of the

road not threatened with eviction. But what use are my documents? Paper is easy to


Bessay said 1,131 families have documents to their land signed by the local authorities.

Moreover, Prime Minister Hun Sen, in a televised speech - a copy of which was shown

to the Post - explicitly states that the residents of the area officially own the


But on January 13, 2006, Phnom Penh's Governor, Kep Chuktema, issued an official

notice banning any new construction, putting a stop to all work to reclaim land from

the floodplain, and prohibiting the sale or purchase of the land in the area.

A copy of the notice, obtained by the Post, said the government will either set aside

50 hectares of land in the area to be developed as a relocation site for the current

residents, or will award compensation according to government policy. But it also

included a stark warning that non-compliance with the terms of the notice would result

in legal action.

"In the case of this official notice being violated, the offending party will

be held accountable by law," Chuktema wrote.

The notice informed residents that the government has signed a contract with investors

to develop the 387 hectares of land located in Chruoy Changvar, Preak Leap and Preah

Tasek communes of Dangkor district, along Route 6A.

The Post obtained a copy of this contract. On July 18, 2005, Sok An, Deputy Prime

Minister and Minister of the Council of Ministers, signed the contract between the

Kingdom of Cambodia and SunCity Cambodia and gave the company a 70-year lease on

the land in Chruoy Changvar.

The contract states that SunCity Cambodia has been established under the Cambodian

law, registered by the Sunway Hotel in Phnom Penh, and has officially rented the


"We are victims," Sok Lay said. "When there were no people living

here they didn't want the land; now we have established ourselves here they want

to move us away - but then what? When the new area they move us to develops and becomes

valuable they will just move us again."

Bessay has called on Hun Sen to either cancel the contract with Sunway City or recognize

the land titles of residents and pay appropriate compensation that takes into account

the current market value of the land.

"We do not protest against the government's developmental master plan,"

Bassey said. "But there must be appropriate compensation that reflects the current

high price of the land."

The government intends to give compensation of around US$3 per square meter, said

an associate of local real estate developer Borey Sopheak Mongkol (Prosperity City).

The associate, who would not be named for fear of reprisals, said the land was worth

at least $200 per square meter.

Ear Kim Kheng, owner of Borey Sopheak Mongkul, told the Post by phone on June 12

that his company is looking into the possibility of a joint venture with SunCity

Cambodia, but has not made any concrete decisions.

"We are not 100 percent certain we will join the investment project," said

Kim Kheng. "We are waiting to see what a feasibility study of the area shows."

But for Chruoy Changvar's present residents "SunCity" is a gloomy prospect.

"Everyone is unhappy and feeling really nervous," Lay said. "I am

a widow. Living here I can eke out a living, earning just enough to feed my family

and send my children to school. If I have to move it will be very difficult to live

- I am afraid I would starve."



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