A group of 162 families from Commune IV’s Village 4 in Sihanoukville on Monday protested the building of a new road by the authorities, claiming that it affected their houses.
As part of the protest, they also called on the authorities to negotiate with them to find a solution.
One of the protesters, Bun Nhem, 45, said on Monday that the authorities had informed them to dismantle houses and constructions that affected the construction of Road 200 in the village from May 13 onwards.
He said the authorities wanted to build a road 40m wide and more than 1,000m long but the protesters requested that the width be decreased to 17m, which they think is enough.
“If the 40m road is built, some families will lose their houses and land, and mostly everybody owes money to the banks,” he said.
Another resident who chose to remain anonymous said the authorities should communicate and collaborate with residents because the road affects their livelihoods.
Residents who live on the land in question don’t hold hard land titles. Instead, they have letters certifying their residences which have been acknowledged by authorities. They have lived on the land since 1988.
“We residents prohibit [this road] development. Development that affects many residents should be coordinated, and [the authorities] should think how this affects poor people,” he said.
Commune IV chief Seng Nim said on Monday that the town and Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities had informed the residents that they must dismantle all types of constructions which encroach on the pavement because the authorities need to build the road.
He said the residents have the right to live on the land but in the end, if the authorities need something, they have to collaborate.
“I ask that our brothers and sisters collaborate with the authorities to build the new clean road together in Sihanoukville.
“Most of them have two or three houses. I say that it doesn’t affect them very much because we have to build this road with pedestrian crossings, painted lines and correct traffic signs. Overall, we want to build it properly,” Nim said.
Municipal Governor Y Sokleng said on Monday that authorities had not widened the road and maintained that it had always been 40m wide.
He took issue with people who had built constructions on the pavement.
“We are building the road for the common good. We widened the road according to the existing layout. It’s normal for residents who used to live on the land to protest.
“Obviously, in the past, we’ve built roads that affected people. But they made donations to the authorities for the common good,” Sokleng said.
Provincial Department of Public Works and Transport director Borey Vongsanit could not be reached for comment on Monday.
A notice issued by the department dated May 13 said it will repair the road and install the main sewer system soon.
It suggested residents contribute to maintaining order, improving beauty and reducing traffic jams along Road 200.
The notice said all house and business owners making use of public pavements along Road 200 in the commune must dismantle their constructions.
They must demolish terraces protruding onto the road and terraces higher than the road on their own to leave space for pedestrians. If they refuse to do so, a joint force will dismantle them without taking responsibility for damage or loss of materials.