Authorities in Preah Sihanouk province yesterday began demolishing the houses of nearly 30 families built along canals and sidewalks in Sihanoukville ahead of today’s deadline despite protests from residents.
Provincial Hall said last week authorities will vacate and destroy 29 houses today because they were “illegally built”.
Provincial Governor Kuoch Chamroeun said the construction of the houses caused flooding because the canals are now too narrow to effectively transport water. He said Provincial Hall will not be responsible for damages and loss of property.
Kheang Phearom, spokesman for Provincial Hall, yesterday said the operation, using bulldozers, was led by deputy provincial governor Cheav Vicheak.
“We are just enforcing the law when we demolish anarchic structures that affect canals in Buon commune,” Mr Phearom said. “We only recently finished demolishing houses in some other areas and our operation is ongoing.”
He said Provincial Hall will not compensate the families because a working group made up of sub-national officials in November said the homes were illegally built.
Sok Na, a 50-year-old resident and mother of five children, said her four-by-eight metre house was demolished yesterday and most of her belongings were lost.
“They used four excavators to pull down our houses even as I was trying to take out my belongings,” Ms Na said. “Most of my things are gone – dishes, pots and beds.”
She said she bought the land in 2007 and built a house for her family. She did not expect to be evicted and have her family home destroyed.
“I even asked them to give me an extension of another week, but they only gave us three days,” Ms Na said. “I cannot [promptly] find a new place. We would not have objected had they provided compensation.”
Floods in the middle of last year inundated parts of Sihanoukville and the province’s Prey Nop district. Two people died and several homes were damaged.
Prime Minister Hun Sen in November announced the government will spend $170 million to also tackle waste disposal problems in Sihanoukville, adding China donated $600 million for the same purpose.
Mr Chamroeun was appointed as provincial governor in June after former governor Yun Min resigned following the Sihanoukville collapse that killed 28 and injured 26 people.
Cheap Sotheary, provincial coordinator for Adhoc, said yesterday she is monitoring the demolishment of the houses.
Even though eviction letters were sent ahead of today’s deadline, Ms Sotheary said there was a lack of communication to solve this problem, resulting in residents suffering evictions.
“The authorities should have provided proper clarification on their development project.” she said. “Who will be responsible for the loss of properties? Where will the residents live after this?” Ms Sotheary said, adding: “Local officials allowed them to build the houses, so I think the authorities should find a solution to this problem,”
Prices of land sharply increased following the influx of Chinese nationals in Sihanoukville.