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Villagers fear eviction after homes marked

Villagers fear eviction after homes marked

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A woman walks past homes that have been spray-painted in Trapaing Chhouk village, in Teuk Thla commune, in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district yesterday.

More than 50 representatives of a community in Sen Sok district’s Teuk Thla commune gathered yesterday at the commune office to inquire about why local officials had spray-painted red markings on their homes, fearing they may be set for demolition.

The villagers claimed to be representing roughly 400 families in Teuk Thla’s Trapaing Chhouk village whose homes were marked and numbered by police and local officials this week. Community representative Chheang Rith, 39, said these officials did not give residents any indication of why their homes were being marked, prompting widespread fears of an impending eviction.

“We aren’t holding a strike or a demonstration,” he said. “We just want the authorities to clarify why they sprayed red numbers on the walls of our homes.”

Trapaing Chhouk resident Leav Srey Touch, 39, told commune chief Tan Navin that she had been paralysed with anxiety since the number was sprayed on her home.

“I am so worried that I cannot sleep or eat because of this,” she said. “I don’t know what [local officials] want to do.”

Trapaing Chhouk was gutted by fire in 2008, and current residents of the area have therefore been forced to rebuild their homes on the site of the previous community.

Tan Navin told the assembled residents that he did not know about the policy behind the spraying of the homes, but that the rationale would be revealed next week. Later in the day yesterday, however, he told The Post that the government planned to renovate the area to decrease the risk of fire.

“The measurements are to develop a road and drainage system for the area to avoid the risk of a fire like in 2008,” he said, adding that the surveying of the homes would help local officials preserve “order” in the community.

“This area has a lot of rented homes that cause disorder and are involved in drug use and trafficking,” he said.

Sia Phearum, secretariat director for the local NGO Housing Rights Task Force, called yesterday for local officials to be transparent about their plans for the area and the homes of the affected villagers.

“The authorities should call the villagers to attend a meeting and tell them clearly why the surveying was done so that they aren’t frightened,” he said.

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