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Villagers refuse $500 compensation for damaged houses

Villagers refuse $500 compensation for damaged houses

121204_06

Residents of the Svay Pak commune, in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district, watch helplessly as their houses slump toward collapsing into the Tonle Sap river because of nearby dredging. Photograph: Mai Vireak/Phnom Penh Post

Local authorities in the capital’s Russey Keo district had offered residents living along the banks of the Tonle Sap $500 compensation in the wake of sand dredging that began a week ago and has already caused structural damage to their homes, villagers told the Post yesterday.

Twenty-two families in Svay Pak commune’s Svay Pak village filed a complaint to the Russey Keo district hall yesterday after foundation pillars in a number of houses broke because of what they allege is shifting terrain caused by the dredging.

The dredging began on November 25, resident Pum Laot, 58, said.

But villagers were not warned of the activities, nor have they been given any information about the company involved, despite asking authorities.

Most of the workers spoke Vietnamese, Laot said.

Local authorities had offered the 22 worst-affected families in the area $500 per family to vacate the area, he said.

“A few families’ pillars have started breaking since the sand dredging began. We have started to fear it and are concerned about it. The authorities did not inform us who is dredging the sand, so we hurried to file a complaint with the authorities.”

Laot said five families had so far agreed to the cash settlement, but 17 had refused the deal.

Resident Hon Sotheary, 30, said that as well as structural damage, she was worried about her personal health and safety.

“They pay us $500 for each family – it is such a little. How can we buy land or a house or another place to live?

“We spent a lot of money to build our house. Some of [the other residents] borrowed money to build. It is not acceptable. Now we are concerned about losing our house to the river.”

Chea Pisey, deputy governor of Russey Keo district, said he had not yet received the filed complaint. Without commenting in detail, he said  local authorities would examine it once it was filed.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sen David at [email protected]

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