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Habitat Day marked by capital’s evictees

Habitat Day marked by capital’s evictees

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Land rights activists wearing hats that look like houses protest in Phnom Penh Monday, Oct. 8, 2012. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post

Evictees wearing small model houses on their heads to symbolise their struggles marched to the National Assembly yesterday to ask authorities to intervene to stop more forced evictions.

About 400 representatives of 40 communities across the capital joined human rights activists at the former Dey Krahorm eviction site on Chamkarmon district’s Tonle Sap commune yesterday as part of a World Habitat Day event.

World Habitat Day was celebrated internationally on October 1, but many of the activists who attended yesterday had spent that day supporting Beehive Radio director Mam Sonando as he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for masterminding a so-called secessionist plot in Kratie province.

Black T-shirts emblazoned with the words “eviction-free zone” stood out as the crowd marched in support of villagers who been forcibly evicted from communities including group 78, Boeung Kak and Borei Keila without proper compensation.

Cheng Srey Vann, a former resident of Dey Krahorm who was evicted in early 2009, said she had lived in poverty since.

She now fears eviction from the $2,000 house her family had bought in Boeung Trabek commune in Chamkarmon district.

Activists clutched loudspeakers as they complained of eviction “thefts” dressed up as urban development and demanded the release of imprisoned activists Yorm Bopha, from Boeung Kak lake, and Borei Keila’s Tim Sakmony.

They also made fresh pleas for the court to release Sonando.

Eang Vuthy, a representative of Equitable Cambodia, said civil society groups and residents wanted the government to respect housing rights.

“At resettlement sites, there are difficulties because they are so far away and they lack infrastructure,” he said.

Phnom Penh Municipal Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said people had made a career out of protesting and were not stopping to think of the positive sides of development.

“We always see the same faces at protests,” he said. “They find any excuse to go against the government without fully considering why.”

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Sonando’s supporters had no reason to protest because his case would be heard at the Court of Appeal.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at [email protected]

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