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Football meet fights evictions

Football meet fights evictions

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Children from relocation sites and threatened urban communities take part Thursday in the Zero Evictions Soccer 2009 championship in Phnom Penh on Thursday.

Eviction-affected kids compete in awareness-raising tourney.

Tuol kork railway eviction postponed
Phnom Penh municipal authorities on Thursday postponed a planned eviction of 26 families living along a rail lines in Tuol Kor district and announced plans to hold additional negotiations scheduled for today. In a statement issued last week, authorities said the families had until Thursday to leave their homes and offered them two compensation options, or forced removal from the site. But Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeurn said Thursday that the municipality hoped to reach a peaceful agreement and avoid using force. Some 645 families have already accepted compensation, Mann Chhoeurn said earlier this week, and remaining residents say they are holding out for a better compensation package.

MORE than 120 children from Phnom Penh resettlement sites and communities under threat of eviction gathered Thursday at the Cambodia Mekong University football field to take part in the Zero Evictions Soccer 2009 championship.

Ee Sarom, coordinator of Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, the local housing rights advocacy groups that organised the event, said it was intended to reduce the pain of children under 16 years old who had experienced threats of eviction and to send a message to the government to halt further evictions of poor urban communities.

For the youngsters who took part, the joy of friendly competition was a momentary respite from the fear and uncertainty of living on disputed land in the capital, participants said.

Cher Ratha, 15, from the Boeung Kak lakeside’s Village 6, which is set to make way for a 133-hectare housing and commercial development, said that despite losing 3-0 to a team from the Andong Thmey relocation site in Dangkor district, he was glad to take part.

“I don’t know about the government’s development plan, but I know that they are violating my homeland,” he said.

Andong Thmey resident Heng Vannak, also 15, said the tournament was the most fun he’d had since being evicted from Phnom Penh’s Sambok Chab community in 2006.

He added that his and other evictees’ families continue to face poor living conditions, including “lack of sanitation, clean water [and] electricity” at their relocation site.

Sia Phearum, secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said that critics did not oppose development but saw forced evictions as unnecessary for further economic development.

“We want to see the country have development, but we do not want to see people threatened by eviction for the sake of national development,” he said.

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