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Villagers fear eviction looms

Villagers fear eviction looms

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Kratie villagers threatened with eviction gather in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s home in Phnom Penh to plead their case. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post

Villagers who fear eviction from their homes of 30 years in Kratie province travelled to Phnom Penh yesterday to plead for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s intervention.

Fifteen representatives of 88 families who live close to Kratie Airport, in Kratie town’s Srei Padav village, said provincial authorities had warned them in January that they had until February 28 to move from their homes or be evicted.

Representative Soum Sovanny, 47, said families were yet to be evicted, but lived in fear of being forcibly removed and their houses being demolished.

“We’ve lived there more than 30 years, and we have homes, properties and crops,” he said. “We can’t move anywhere until we have a suitable resolution.”

Adequate compensation allowing them to establish new homes elsewhere must be part of that resolution, he added.

The representatives submitted petitions to the prime minister’s cabinet, the Ministry of National Assembly, Senate Relations and Inspection, and the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction.

According to an eviction notice, 44 hectares of the villagers’ land was part of an area near the airport earmarked to be developed as a university.

“Villagers must stop using the land and remove their homes by February 28,” the notice said. “After the expiry date, the authorities will demolish the houses without responsibility for the damage.”

Villager Oum Kemyan, 66, said she was living in fear of eviction now that the deadline had come and gone.

“I’m so afraid of authorities taking action,” she said. “What is the solution for us? I have nothing but my land, which I have lived on for 30 years. I’m afraid of being evicted and left with nothing.”

Kratie governor Sar Chamrong said yesterday he had asked his deputy, Khat Chamnan, to resolve the issue.

Chamnan said that “a committee has been established to resolve this case”, before hanging up on a reporter.

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