T he homes built by
squatters on the shores of Boeng Kak lake are to be bulldozed to make way for a
zoo and public gardens, a senior Interior Ministry official said.
scheme is part of a drive by authorities to make the city more attractive to
tourists, Secretary of State Khan Savouen said. He believes the squatters are a
blot on the landscape which should be removed.
"The government wants to
make the country look good and get people to decorate it. In Sihanouk's time it
looked beautiful, now it's not.
"Back then, people from other countries
wanted to visit. Now only some come but they never want to return because it's
not beautiful and not well-decorated. This will improve tourism for
Meanwhile Director of Land Titles at Phnom Penh Muncipality
Chhuon Sothy said a stay of execution for the Boeng Kak squatters ran out on
Tuesday (Mar 8). He was unable to say when the security forces would move in to
demolish the several hundred homes, some of which are luxurious by Phnom Penh
Savouen pledged to investigate squatters' claims that their
belongings were stolen by the security forces when their homes were torn
He called on the squatters to make formal complaints and he added
that if any were substantiated, the guilty officers would be
Savouen chairs the five-member Committee to Control Squatters,
which last month ordered the security forces in to tear down huts built on
privately-leased land along a dirt track leading down to the lake.
committee has subsequently ordered all squatters and owners of illegally-built
houses throughout the capital to vacate immediately or face forced eviction in
the next few weeks.
"We will push all of them out," Savouen said. "We
have plans which we announced on radio and television in order to let them know
they should move off public land or the government will evict them."
said many of them were returnees from refugee camps who were given land by UNHCR
(United Nations High Commission for Refugees) when they left the camps, but
chose to move to the city.
Savouen said, "Some of them sold their land
for money and came to occupy new land. All these people have or had their own
land in the provinces."
He believes the squatters who don't own land
elsewhere are "bad people" who are occupying government land under the
persuasion of Khmer Rouge infiltrators to create problems for the
He added, "It's not only squatters but also people who build huts without
permission who are destroying the beauty of the city. We also plan to take
action against them."