Updated: 7:51am, Thursday, March 22, 2018

Around 200 protesters delivered a petition to Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday requesting that a Phnom Penh road project be curtailed to avoid displacing residents.

The protesters represent a community of over 1,000 families living along a railway in the capital’s Russey Keo district. Plans to replace the track with a new, broader road will displace people in three communes. The new road and accompanying sidewalks would be 60 metres wide in total, and would require taking villagers’ land on both sides of the tracks.

The petition, which was also delivered to City Hall and the Ministry of Land Management, requests that the road be only 20 metres wide. It also demands land titles for all residents.

Municipal Governor Khuong Sreng visited the area on March 1, informing residents of the planned construction. City Hall also pledged to give land to those completely displaced, but the new land would be carved from properties of other, unaffected residents. The villagers who would have to cede land to others led the protests.

“We welcome the development project of City Hall in order to serve the interests of the public, but the on-site development by City Hall affects nearly 1,000 families who have been living there for years along this railway,” the petition reads.

Kong Chamroeun, a member of Hun Sen’s cabinet who received the petition, said only that he would forward it to “expert officials”.

“We will inform the residents in one week,” he told the protesters.“We will do our best to help them,” land management official Ol Sok Yuos said.

Representatives from City Hall could not be reached.

Protester Kong Rang on Wednesday called on “the relevant authorities to check and reconsider this project, especially Samdech [Hun Sen]”.

Keng Narun, a leader of the aggrieved villagers, said the families had worked hard to save money to buy their land, and had intended to pass it down to their children.

“We do not support the authorities’ plan to take the land and share it to other people,” Narun continued, adding that they will await the government’s reply.