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Remaining railway residents brace for forced evictions

Remaining railway residents brace for forced evictions

090306_05.jpg
090306_05.jpg

Residents say they fear a repeat of the Dey Krahorm eviction after three local representatives are convicted in absentia.

Photo by:

TRACEY SHELTON

The Train B community, which lies along colonial-era railway lines, faces an uncertain future.  

RESIDENTS remaining in the Train B Community in Tuol Kork district say they fear forced eviction from their land following the conviction in absentia of three community leaders, accused of falsifying documents relating to a property compensation claim.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court on February 23 convicted Chea Samhong, May Thonak and Sok Kimchan Mealea of forging the thumbprints of 34 community families seeking compensation from local developer Hassan Cambodia Development Limited, which plans to develop the 2.5-hectare block of land.

Yok Sambo, the residents' lawyer, said the three - currently in hiding - were sentenced to three years in prison and fined US$20,000 each.

"It is unjust for the residents. The court has no evidence to prove their forged thumbprints," he said Thursday.

Resident Chea Srey Na, the sister of suspect May Thonak, said the three had been convicted merely because they had fought for the small community, and that she now feared forced eviction like the city's Dey Krahorm community.

"We have been living here since 1990, and like Dey Krahorm, the government granted [us] a social land concession in 2003, but still the company wants to develop our community and give us low compensation," she said.

"The three leaders did everything for the sake of the people, and then this happens to them. I know we will end up like the Dey Krahorm community, where poor people lost out to the rich."

Official warnings

Othsman Hassan, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour and chairman of Hassan Cambodia Development, said that police were hunting for the fugitives, but that he had no hand in the court's decision and that it was residents themselves who lodged complaints about the three leaders.

He said that in 2000 the government granted his company the right to develop the 10-hectare area encompassing the Train A and B communities into office space and commercial centres, but that work was delayed because of 25 families who were yet to leave the site.

Othsman Hassan said the company had previously offered residents replacement housing but that the offer was no longer valid, and that the company was offering $20,000 cash for the remaining residents.

"People must accept that they are living on state land, so that when the government wants it for development they should leave because they do not legally own the land," he said.

"People are demanding high prices which we cannot accept."

Othsman Hassan also warned that authorities would take administrative action "like at Dey Krahorm" if people did not agree to leave.

Nouth Bopinnaroath, monitor for the rights group Licadho, said the three accused had served the community since 1995 and that residents had filed complaints with the Appeal Court to overturn the warrants.

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