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Ugly squatters must make way for zoo, says govt

Ugly squatters must make way for zoo, says govt

T he homes built by

squatters on the shores of Boeng Kak lake are to be bulldozed to make way for a

zoo and public gardens, a senior Interior Ministry official said.

The

scheme is part of a drive by authorities to make the city more attractive to

tourists, Secretary of State Khan Savouen said. He believes the squatters are a

blot on the landscape which should be removed.

"The government wants to

make the country look good and get people to decorate it. In Sihanouk's time it

looked beautiful, now it's not.

"Back then, people from other countries

wanted to visit. Now only some come but they never want to return because it's

not beautiful and not well-decorated. This will improve tourism for

Cambodia."

Meanwhile Director of Land Titles at Phnom Penh Muncipality

Chhuon Sothy said a stay of execution for the Boeng Kak squatters ran out on

Tuesday (Mar 8). He was unable to say when the security forces would move in to

demolish the several hundred homes, some of which are luxurious by Phnom Penh

standards.

Savouen pledged to investigate squatters' claims that their

belongings were stolen by the security forces when their homes were torn

down.

He called on the squatters to make formal complaints and he added

that if any were substantiated, the guilty officers would be

sacked.

Savouen chairs the five-member Committee to Control Squatters,

which last month ordered the security forces in to tear down huts built on

privately-leased land along a dirt track leading down to the lake.

The

committee has subsequently ordered all squatters and owners of illegally-built

houses throughout the capital to vacate immediately or face forced eviction in

the next few weeks.

"We will push all of them out," Savouen said. "We

have plans which we announced on radio and television in order to let them know

they should move off public land or the government will evict them."

He

said many of them were returnees from refugee camps who were given land by UNHCR

(United Nations High Commission for Refugees) when they left the camps, but

chose to move to the city.

Savouen said, "Some of them sold their land

for money and came to occupy new land. All these people have or had their own

land in the provinces."

He believes the squatters who don't own land

elsewhere are "bad people" who are occupying government land under the

persuasion of Khmer Rouge infiltrators to create problems for the

government.

He added, "It's not only squatters but also people who build huts without

permission who are destroying the beauty of the city. We also plan to take

action against them."

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