A s the gun battle at Stung Meancheay was being fought city authorities were
about to decide the future of what they estimate to be 143,000 squatters.
Officials are to hold a seminar on Monday and Tuesday with leaders of
The municipality wants to move the squatters to
sroks , (rural districts) surrounding the city and build them new
Director of Land Titles Chuun Sothy told the Post the
municipality hopes to fund the construction of the new villages with help from
the World Bank or Asian Development Bank, for which city officials are now
However squatters are likely to object to
relocation to the squats, partly because houses in the sroks would be prone to
flooding as most of the land there is below water-level in the rainy season.
Robert Deutsch, a member of the Urban Sector Group which has been
researching squatting communities around the capital disagrees with the
He said, "Where possible we want them to stay where they are
because most of them have a particular reason for living where they do - either
it's close to their place of work, or the market where they have their stalls,
or their children's school, or it's near other members of their family or close
He added, "If relocation is necessary we want it to be humane
But Sothy insists the squatters have to be moved.
said, "We cannot keep them where they are because they occupy public and private
land to which other people already hold the land titles."
there are certain areas where squatters cannot continue living because they are
blocking narrow roadways or drainage canals.
A kaleidoscope of victims
of Cambodia's tribulations make up Phnom Penh's thousands of
Sothy says they include demilitarized soldiers, amputees, poor
families from the provinces, employed soldiers, cyclo-drivers, and underpaid
civil servants such as teachers.
They live not only in abandoned houses
and riverside shacks, but wooden and bamboo huts in canals, on narrow roadways
and on the terraced rooftops of high-rise apartment buildings.
to Municipality figures, two-thirds of the city's squatters live in Chamkarmon
district, where they are concentrated around the banks of the Bassac River.
A dense concentration of squatters also live on the banks of the Boeng
Kak lake in the north of the city, occupying what were once manicured public
The red-light district of Tuol Kork is home to almost
Most choose their particular squats because of
proximity to work or school or family, and not just because it's available or
inexpensive, according to earliest trends to emerge from a survey of 187 squats.
They also show that most squatting communities developed after
The survey is the first-ever attempt to build up a general profile
of Phnom Penh's homeless and is being conducted by municipality workers and the
Urban Sector Group.
It asked families their reasons for choosing their
particular squat, how long they'd been there, their problems in the squats and
about the state of their water and power supplies.
Co-ordinator of the
Urban Sector Group, Deborah Brodie, said, "We wanted to build up an overall
profile of squatting communities, so the survey is very impressionistic. Later
we may be able to conduct a more scientific, qualitative
Homeless leaders suggested they be given cash to set up schools
and small businesses in their communities when they had a meeting last week with
municipality officials and NGOs last week.
Squatters' suggestions and
government plans for the future of the city's squatters will be pooled at the
two-day meeting this week to form the basis of recommendations to be made to
co-prime ministers HRH Prince Norodom Ranariddh and HE Samdech Hun Sen on the
second day of the meeting.
The Asian Coalition for Housing Rights is
flying in two international urban development experts who've specialized in
resolving squatter issues in other south-east Asian cities to advise the meeting
on "humane" approaches to squatters.