Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Make way for the Lycee

Make way for the Lycee

Make way for the Lycee

The evictees, some of whom have lived at the location for three decades, are shut out of their homes as land is handed over to the school.

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

Nhim Phy,38, and some 37 families who live near the Lycee Francais Rene

Descartes, a French international school near Wat Phnom, were all

fenced out of their homes Monday so that the land can be transferred

back to the school.

AT least 37 families  living next to Lycee Francais Rene Descartes, a French international school near Wat Phnom, have been fenced out of their homes on Monday as a result of an agreement between the governments of France and Cambodia to transfer land back to the international school, the government confirmed on Monday.

Sok Chenda, 54, has lived near the school since 1979 with her husband, an administrator at Lycee Francais Rene Descartes. She said she was willing to move but only for fair compensation.

"I don't want to have a problem with the authorities, but how can I move if they give me only US$10,000 ... I cannot construct a new house with that," she said.

"They invited us to a meeting about their compensation, but not all of us agreed, so yesterday they put a fence around our area," she added.

Meak Sina, 46, who has lived near the school since 1979, said, "I want them to pay us $40,000 in cash, and then we can go to find a house by ourselves. We don't need them to tell us to live in an area that will flood every year," taking issue with the government's proposal to provide the families with land near the often flooded Thnot Chrum village.

The village chief, Touch Yeum, admitted that most of the residents did not have land titles but claimed ownership over the land since many in the community had been living there for decades.

Photo by:
HENG CHIVOAN 

Residents of the area next to the Lycee Descartes face eviction soon.

"We have lived here since 1979, but we don't have land titles. ... But now the authorities are saying we live on state land, and they need to give it to the French embassy," he said.

The land will not be under the control of the French embassy, but rather of the school, according to a French embassy spokeperson.

Established in 1951, the school is the oldest international school in Phnom Penh.

Chan Soveth, a monitor at the Cambodian rights group Adhoc, said this eviction was typical of other government evictions.

"What the government has been doing every day by force is to evict people without fair compensation. They use force first, and then they talk about compensation later."

Sok Penh Vuth, the deputy director of Daun Penh district and the man who ordered the fence around the villagers' houses said, "Nearly 50 percent of the villagers agreed to our compensation that we provided."

He added: "The 13 families who have lived in that location since 1979 will be given $10,000 and a 4-metre-by-8-metre plot of land . We will take this land and give it to France."

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHRISTOPHER SHAY

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