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Court upholds eviction date

Court upholds eviction date

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Group 78 residents pray to Buddha as they await a ruling Monday from the Court of Appeal.

Court of Appeal rejects Group 78’s request to prevent the forced relocation of residents slated for Friday, setting the stage for potential confrontation

THE Phnom Penh Court of Appeal on Monday upheld a Friday eviction deadline for the embattled Group 78 community.

After the hearing, Group 78 representatives attacked the eviction letter issued by Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema, describing it as a gross violation of Cambodian law.

"It is an injustice," said community representative Lim Sambo. "We have evidence that shows why we want to stop the court warrant."

Representatives claim that Group 78 community members have lived on the plot since the 1980s and should be recognised as owners under the Land Law. As owners, they would be entitled to "fair and just compensation".

The lawyer for Group 78, Sourng Sophea, who works at the Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC), said the residents still had legal options to prevent the demolition of their homes.

"Residents can still file another suit with the Municipal Court. This is not the final result yet," he said.
Lim Sambo vowed to file suit against City Hall again.

"I don't care if they upheld our case. I will sue again," he said. "I am not afraid of eviction day ... because I respect the law."

According to municipal officials, there are 86 families in Group 78, only 20 of which have agreed to the government's compensation terms, setting the stage for potential conflict on Friday.

Residents of Group 78 said they believed the government was even resorting to trickery to convince families to leave their homes.

Kim Houn, a Group 78 resident, said a man pretending to be a local newspaper reporter tried to force her to accept one of the compensation plans presented by City Hall.

"A man called me and said that he was from the local newspaper," she said. "He claimed to have news from City Hall that the government would not give anything to residents if they had to use administrative measures."

She added: "They should not claim to be journalists. I know they are not journalists. They just threatened us. Journalists never threaten people."

'A duty to develop'
Mann Chhoeun, deputy governor of Phnom Penh, said the "situation is similar to people in Dey Krahorm", referring to another Phnom Penh community that was relocated in a violent eviction that left 18 injured.

"They have been over deadline since April. I am not Pol Pot, but this country has laws," Mann Chhoeun said. "When we evict people it does not mean that we do not care about them ... but the government has a duty to develop the country."

Resident Lim Liken said he hoped police would allow him to at least take his family's belongings with him if he is forced out of his home.
"If they come and apply their 'administrative measures' on us, I just ask them to allow me to take my property, because we have no guns or gunpowder like the authorities. We have only our hands," he said.

According to a document obtained by the Post, the government is offering Group 78 a choice of four compensation packages: US$5,000 with a 5-by-12-metre plot of land in Trapaing Anhchanh village in Dangkor district; $1,000, the plot in Dangkor district and a flat; an apartment in Borey Sensok with running water; or $8,000 with no land or shelter.

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