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River families face eviction

Community huts in Stung Treng province that will be removed by authorities in line with an upcoming beautification project. Photo supplied
Community huts in Stung Treng province that will be removed by authorities in line with an upcoming beautification project. Photo supplied

River families face eviction

Nearly 100 families living along a riverbank where the Mekong and Sekong rivers meet in Stung Treng province have been told they must vacate the area no later than July to pave the way for a landscape beautification project.

Bun Nary, Stung Treng district governor, said Provincial Governor Mom Saroeun wants to build a concrete riverbank to prevent landslides and to beautify the area.

About a quarter of the families don’t have any other place to call home, while the remaining 70 percent have other accommodations, but live in the area temporarily to fish.

Nary on Friday had a meeting with the villagers where he informed them of the plans, and ticking clock. “Some of the families have [other] land, but they don’t live on it. They just come to live here [because] it’s easy for them to fish,” he said. “But there are other people who truly have no land.”

Men Kung, spokesman for the provincial governor, said officials have been informing residents of the new plans, though they recognise many villagers have been living there for a long time.

Provincial authorities will grant villagers a social land concession in Samaki commune in the same district, Kung said. The new area, where families will each receive a plot of land measuring 30-by-20 metres, is about 12 kilometres away from where they live now.

“We will support them in transporting their belongings,” he said, adding that the new location has electricity, but no clean water yet.

Officials at this point are only able to provide land and can’t afford to also provide villagers financial compensation to build their new homes, Kung added.

Villager Nob Samai, 55, said he had been living on the riverbank since 1981 and that his family is barely making ends meet.

“If they could give us financial support to build a house, it would be really good, because when we relocate, our [homes] will be demolished,” he said.

Kung said officials weighed in the development project versus the impact to residents, which is why they will provide land for those who don’t have another place to live.

“We need to develop the area,” he said. “It’s not our national action plan to just clear out the people living at the riverbank.”

Last week The Post reported that some 100 families living on the riverbank in Kampong Chhnang will also have to relocate soon to allow for a garden development in the area.

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