Despite authorities turning a blind eye to their villages for more than 15 years, about 2,000 families living near Preah Sihanouk province’s Kbal Chhay waterfall face imminent eviction to make way for a clean-water processing plant, officials said yesterday.
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s recent bold move to grant land to villagers embroiled in land disputes won’t apply to the thousands living at Kbal Chhay, who occupy what will become a social, not economic, land concession.
Nuon Bunthol, director at Preah Sihanouk provincial hall, said that today the provincial joint working group and local authorities will travel to the area to take notes and gather statistics of households and families in the Kbal Chhay region to prepare for the eventual relocation.
“According to the prime minister’s speeches, those living in Kbal Chhay area are not included. Kbal Chhay faces the removal of houses because it is the government policy to use it as a provincial clean water area,” he said.
This isn’t the first time that families living in the area have been threatened with eviction. In 1997, the Council of Ministers ordered provincial leaders to move the villagers from the Kbal Chhay site because “they have encroached on state land” for years.
This directive was never implemented in the area, families said.
Village II chief Mom Sophorn said the Kbal Chhay villages were “crowded” and the clean water project would adversely affect all of those living there.
“Now, we don’t know who are affected or how many families. The villagers are worried that if the land is exchanged, they will be far from business places, factories and schools,” she said.
Eung Chantha, 45, who lives in Village I, said that affected villagers were not invited to relocation meetings with authorities, causing him and other villagers to feel afraid.
“We cannot accept that villagers living there so long are moved from the place, they have no destination [and] we have houses and jackfruit and coconut plantations here too,” he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at [email protected]