The Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration has given 31 families 15 days from September 6 to remove structures built on land next to the O2 canal and issued a warning for non-compliance.

Provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun on September 6 announced that in the past authorities had issued a letter requesting residents to voluntarily remove structures next to the canal in village 5 of Preah Sihanouk town’s commune IV, which were obstructing the rehabilitation of the canal.

The announcement also confirmed that the town administration had inspected the area and instructed people to dismantle buildings that were illegally built on the land and next to the canal.

“If residents refuse to voluntarily dismantle structures, our working group will implement administrative measures without taking responsibility for any damage or loss to property,” Chamroeun said.

Provincial administration spokesman Kheang Phearom told The Post on September 7 that the Ministry of Public Works and Transport had provided funding for the restoration of the 25,967m canal in the town with a ground-breaking ceremony on December 9, 2019.

Phearum said the rehabilitation required the working group to check the system plan and identify all owners of structures affected by the project.

He added that the working group identified 734 families, of which 224 were completely affected and 510 were partially affected.

“The town administration’s working group has dismantled 464 out of 547 households affected by the rehabilitation project. However, the remaining 31 families have not relocated yet,” he said.

Cheap Sotheary, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said it was not the first time provincial authorities had issued a notice for residents to dismantle structures. It was necessary that people remove them, otherwise the town would continue facing flash floods.

However, she suggested that provincial authorities consider an appropriate policy to assist the people so that they can afford to relocate.

“These people have lived next to the canal and on the land for a long time. The structures are not huts but houses. Authorities need to consider this as well,” she said.

Sotheary added that she would monitor the authorities’ activities concerning the holdouts and assist if they have difficulties in dismantling structures.