Hundreds of Kampong Ch-hnang province residents who live in floating villages will have to relocate to dry land if the Ministry of Interior approves a plan aimed at ending pollution in the area.
Officials told nearly 300 families that are living on the river at a meeting yesterday that they would need to make preparations to move from the river after the authorities held a town hall meeting last Wednesday to draft the proposal.
Chhour Chan Dern, Kampong Chhnang provincial governor, said the provincial authorities were still awaiting approval from Phnom Penh before moving ahead with the planned relocation in Phsar Chhnang commune.
“We have informed the residents first about our plans, so they have time to get used to the idea,” he said.
“They need time to find new houses by themselves; it’s so dirty now by the river. We don’t want to force them [to leave], or to use violence.”
The majority of the residents rejected the idea at yesterday’s meeting, village representatives said.
Yerng Ih, a representative of the families, largely ethnic Vietnamese and Cham Muslims who settled in the area after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, said that without support it would be impossible for the families to move.
“For a long time, these people have been fishermen. The cost of land is too expensive. We cannot find houses for them if the provincial authorities do not help us or give [money] to us,” he said.
Khoun Vun, the chief of Kandal village, where residents are slated to be relocated, claimed that the villagers were already aware of the plans, “but they seem to be surprised”.
“There is no hygiene system on the river whatsoever,” he went on to say.
Pov Bun Thon, head of the provincial Department for Environment, said that the constant pollution of the river was a health hazard that needed to be addressed.
“It has affected the whole environment of the river, and [will only get worse] if they continue living without bathrooms and throwing all their rubbish into the river,” he said.