Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Forced evictions begin for Tonle Sap residents

More than 400 families living along the Tonle Sap river in Russei Keo district face eviction. Many said they had nowhere to go. Photo taken, July 20, 2022. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang
More than 400 families living along the Tonle Sap river in Russei Keo district face eviction. Many said they had nowhere to go. Photo taken, July 20, 2022. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang

Russei Keo district authorities on Monday began dismantling makeshift and semi-permanent homes along the Tonle Sap river to make way for a city-improvement project, sparking protests from 400 area families.

Officials long ago warned residents they were living illegally on state land — a stretch of premium, waterfront real estate north of the Chroy Changvar bridge. Residents said they could not afford to move, and asked for more compensation and help from the government.

‘’Me, my wife and two young children, we were all living in this home,” said Nov Nim, 36, who has lived in Phsar Toch village for more than two decades. “Now it’s destroyed. I do not know where we will sleep tonight.”

Nim said he was willing to relocate, but the city’s offer was simply too small.

‘’They said they would give me more than 1 million riel if I am willing to relocate, but it’s too little. I cannot accept it,” he said. “Now they have come and destroyed my home without finding a better solution.”

Sin Sokhuot, a community representative, said authorities destroyed four homes and threatened to dismantle more in coming weeks. He said only 10 families had accepted the city’s offer. The rest were desperately holding out for more money.

‘’We are happy to leave if we get appropriate compensation,” he said. “If not, we cannot go anywhere.”

More than 400 families living along the Tonle Sap river in Russei Keo district face eviction. Many said they had nowhere to go. Photo taken, July 20, 2022. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang

Pov Rom, a 54-year-old resident of Phsar Toch, said the city needed to do more for residents, like giving them land or at least enough money to resettle.

‘’We are all poor here,” she said. “With this little compensation — like my house, they offered me 200,000 riel — I wonder, what can I do with this money?”

Phnom Penh Governor Khuong Sreng said authorities had been in extended talks with residents, but he offered little guidance for resettlers.

The city has remained tight-lipped about its plans for the land.

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