P OLICE tore down the flimsy houses of 57 squatting families in downtown Phnom
Penh on June 9, and the squatters - nearly all Khmer Krom - say they have no
idea where they will now live.
In a separate development the same week,
the Ministry of Interior asked for the names of 240 families squatting outside
Wat Prey Ouvong, tagging them to be sent as workers to a Chinese factory about
to be built in Kompong Sila, on the Kampot/Koh Kong border.
The Post had
previously been told that Kompong Sila was being readied as a "new resettlement
area" to take the "overflow" of Phnom Penh's squatters.
The Post also
understands that the 240 families - part of a 700-family squatting community
living around the Wat - did not volunteer for the move.
"We are trying to
get to meet the factory owners to talk about what houses will be available for
the squatters," said Liz Cunningham of the NGO Urban Sector Group.
need to know if houses have been built, and what salaries, schools amd medical
services will be available to them," she said.
"If the Urban Sector Group
and community leaders are happy, we would like to ask to visit the Kompong Sila
site," she said.
Groups dealing with the squatters - and the squatters
who have been told they are going to be sent to Kompong Sila - have no idea what
the factory will be doing.
Lors Ry, director of Cham Kamorn district
where the squatters now live, said a Chinese association wanted to set up a
development center which would help squatting families.
many of the squatters were poorly-paid cyclo or moto-drivers. "Getting a job and
a house wouldn't be such a bad thing," she said. "There are quite a few people
interested in moving down there for work".
Meanwhile, the squatters who
had their houses demolished along Charles De Gaulle Blvd, about 500 meters from
Stung Mean Chey bridge, complained they were not told of the police operation in
time to find other shelter, nor even time to move what belongings they
About 100 policemen and 30 workers with two trucks loaded squatters'
belongings while their owners looked on.
Squatter Kem Bo said police
gave them three days notice, urging them to move "very soon" and saying they
were not responsible for any damage.
Bo told the Post that he was hit on
his head with a hammer by a policeman when he tried to stop their
"I was arguing with them that we could remove the houses ourselves.
But they did not care what I said. They just crushed and loaded everything," Bo
said angrily. "They took my two beds, and some columns."
Bo claimed that
he was Khmer Krom who had come to Cambodia one year before the May election.
"We are the same blood. I traveled from Vietnam and thought the
Cambodian government would give us a chance. But they threat us very cruelly,"
"You see, I sell water which only pays enough for my daily
expenses. I have no money to rent or buy a room."
"I have four children.
I don't know where to stay. Perhaps, I will be a squatter again," he
Im Sovan and her two children had begun collecting their property
when the police came.
She said that the policemen asked the workers to
threaten the squatters. "The government does not have sympathy with us. They
used the wild law," she said.
Sovan said that some of her pocessions were
taken away and dumped, and she was afraid to fight against the
Ry said that the Phnom Penh Municipality has told him to use
"all kinds of law" and had even warned him five times since April last year to
remove them from the area they had settled - over a sewer.
He said that
four stubborn families still insisted to stay, but he would not let them. Ry
said that $278,000 had already been committed to repair the sewer.
Penh floods every season. Do we need these few people give us trouble," he
"We should make our city more beautiful, and not a slum," he said.
"The squatter areas are like hell - no toilets, no water, no sewer."
Bopha, the coordinator of Urban Sector Group, said: "I think the government
should find a good solution for these squatters."
"They should be
provided a place to stay, otherwise, they will move from one place to another in
this city. The same problems will reoccur."
"I am not in favor of
squatters," she said. "I know they are wrong. But if we talk about human rights,
the government has to help them," say Bopha.