VILLAGERS in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district say they have been given 15 days to dismantle their homes to make way for the construction of a new flood-prevention system, but say they have received no information about whether they will be compensated.
In Saroun, a representative from Chamkar Ovlek village, said 20 families received a letter from authorities on Sunday ordering them to destroy parts of their homes, but that Kakab commune authorities gave no advance warning about the planned drainage system.
“We are not against the state’s development project, but they should pay us compensation because we did not take over state land anarchically – I bought my house from somebody else,” he said.
On Sunday, officials sprayed red paint on walls, marking them for destruction. In some cases, they covered entire houses.
“If they want us to move, they should come and negotiate with us for compensation according to market prices, not release eviction letters without telling us about compensation,” In Saroun said.
Another villager, Nhar Nary, said she had been told nothing about compensation.
“My land measures 10 metres by 24 metres, and about 5 metres of it is affected, which means I will lose between four and five rooms. But I was only told about tearing down this part of my house – they said nothing about compensation,” she said.
“Now land in Phnom Penh is very expensive. I can’t give it to the state for free. They should pay us to tear down our house and pay us for our land.”
Luok Luon, the chief of Chamkar Ovlek village, said he recognised that authorities had not consulted villagers but that the project was urgent and had been ordered by high-level officials, adding that it is likely more people will be affected.
“There are about 50 families whose houses will be affected when we start expanding the drainage system to protect Choam Chao commune, Phnom Penh International Airport and Sen Sok district from floods,” he said.
Kakab commune Chief Sok El said a much smaller number of people would be affected by the project, which will double the size of the existing drain.
“Expanding the drainage system will affect about 10 families, and most of them are renting,” he said.
“There are a few people who are unhappy with our project, but most people are [happy] because this area always floods during the rainy season.”
According to a survey undertaken by local rights group Adhoc, 74 communities around Phnom Penh have been marked for eviction, potentially affecting tens of thousands of people.
Adhoc researcher Chan Soveth said forced evictions affect “children’s rights, human rights and property rights”, adding that authorities should offer compensation before they threaten to evict people.
Sok El said that the issue of compensation was not the commune’s responsibility, and that villages that did not comply with the orders would be subject to “administrative measures”.
“We don’t know about providing compensation because it’s a City Hall project. If they want to get any compensation they should ask City Hall,” he said.
Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun could not be reached for comment on Monday.