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Squatters see their homes destroyed

Squatters see their homes destroyed

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.

"We

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.

Cunningham said

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

had.

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

work.

"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,"

he said.

"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

said.

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

policemen.

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.

"Phnom

Penh floods every season. Do we need these few people give us trouble," he

asked.

"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."

Nith

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.

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