BATTAMBANG-Conflict is brewing within the governor's office in Battambang over
the building of a six-hectare commercial complex that will displace 30
Bulldozers and tractors have already started clearing land and
building roads around the marshy pond called Boeng Chuk, which is ringed by the
impoverished families' thatch shanties, near the town centre.
development-which includes a large market place, a long-distance taxi station,
360 houses, and nine roads-was approved under an agreement signed by Battambang
Governor Ung Sami in June 1992.
But First Deputy Governor Serey Kosal
vehemently opposes the project, unless adequate compensation is given to Boeng
"The governor has decided to forcibly move the
people-maybe this week," Kosal said. "That is a mistake. He must go meet with
the people first and find a way to solve the problem. Otherwise there will be
The businessmen behind the project are two brothers-Tan Kain, a
native of Battambang, and Tan Chhun, a French-Khmer- who trade under the name of
Kim Huot Heng Company.
Kosal, formerly the Funcinpec Party Chief in
Battambang, joined the governor's office in January.
According to Kosal,
in May 1993 the developer offered the governor's office 10 lots in the
development. Each lot is worth more than 25 damlung, or close to $10,000, Kosal
"One or two lots alone would be sufficient [to compensate] the
people," Kosal said. "But where is that money until now? "
Kosal, Sami is proposing to offer each family at Boeng Chuk a 10 x 20 metre
square plot of land outside of town, and 100,000 riel (about $40).
think this will not be accepted by the people because the land outside of town
is not good for them," Kosal said. "They want a safe place to live. Also, the
money is not sufficient to re-build their houses."
The Post was unable
to contact the governor for comment.
Kosal said that some of the families
have been living at Boeng Chuk since 1983, with others arriving in 1987, 1991,
and 1993. "If some people don't want to move, that is their right," Kosal said.
"They are not there illegally."
The brothers deny that the families have
a right to live in Boeng Chuk. Kain said: "Most of the people are living there
illegally. They came from the Thai border in 1993."
As to whether the
brothers would compensate people displaced by the complex, Kain said: "This is
the problem of the government to solve. It's not my place."
Kain said his
company had not offered any lots to the governor's office to be used to
compensate Boeing Chuk residents. The project is being developed in partnership
with the government, who leased the land to the brothers in 1992, he
Several families interviewed by the Post said that they originally
moved to Boeng Chuk in the mid-1980s, when the government evicted them from a
cement apartment building to build the Soviet Hospital.
"First they moved
us for the hospital, and told us to go somewhere else," said one resident, who
runs a radio and television repair shop out of his simple house at Boeng Chuk.
"We have no place to go."
Settlers said that police first told them to
move in August 1993. "They wrote a report and asked me to fingerprint it,
agreeing to leave-but I refused," said the resident, who declined to be named.
"The second time they came, several months later, they threatened to
throw us in jail if we didn't fingerprint the eviction notice," he said.
Members of the Battambang chapter of Adhoc, a human rights group, have
been monitoring the dispute and say will inform the National Assembly if
residents are not satisfied with the outcome.
A 38-year-old woman is
among those who do not want to leave Boeng Chuk. Also declining to be named she
said: "The human rights group said the government cannot move us because of
article 41 and 44 in the constitution."
Even though she cannot read, the
mother of five and market vendor,has attached a large poster, spelling out the
two articles, on the front wall of her house.
Another woman said she was
ready for a fight, despite being frail and 77 years old.
"If they try to
build their road in front of my house here, I'll hit them!" she said.