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Residents afraid to leave city

Residents afraid to leave city

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Families near the Lycee Francais Rene Descartes say they will celebrate the New Year in Phnom Penh for fear of being evicted.

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

Khun Malay, one of the residents living near the Lycee Francais Rene Descartes who is facing eviction, prepares food on Monday. 

FAMILIES living near the Lycee Francais Rene Descartes say they are afraid to leave their homes for Khmer New Year for fear of being evicted in their absence.

Cambodian media Saturday quoted Daun Penh district Deputy Governor Sok Penh Vuth as saying that the families will be evicted on April 20, just after the New Year.

Now, 37 families living next to the French international school near Wat Phnom say they are worried something could happen even sooner.

"This year, I decided not to celebrate the New Year in my hometown, Kampong Cham province, because I fear that an eviction will take place," resident San Lim Sreang, 60, said Monday.

"Other neighbours are also gathering their families and celebrating the New Year in Phnom Penh," he added.

San Lim Sreang's family is one of four families offered of US$10,000 and a plot of land from the municipality in return for moving out of his current home.

But he said the compensation for his 167-square-metre house should be more in the vicinity of $40,000.

"I have lived here since 1979 and the government claims it is state land and that I cannot get a land title. I do not want to go against City Hall or the government, but the compensation must be acceptable so that we can have enough money to build new homes on the relocation site," he said.

Residents have been divided into three compensation categories depending on how many years they have lived there - $10,000, $7,000 and $5,000, all with a block of land.

San Lim Sreang said, however, that the plot of land offered to him, at only 32 square

metres, was also much smaller than his current house.

"Waiting for the order"

Sok Penh Vuth could not confirm Monday when the residents near Lycee Descartes would be moved out from the area, but said he will "wait for the order from [City Hall] if there is a plan to clear people".

"Fifty percent of residents have been happy with their compensation deal," he added.

When asked about the eviction by reporters in an unrelated press conference Monday at City Hall, Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun said that the city has succeeded so far in relocating people to the outskirts of the city as it continues following its development master plan.

He added that City Hall has never moved people out of the city without making sure their living standards continued to be met.

"We have relocated 43 communities to relocation sites, all of which have good infrastructure," he said. 

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