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Preah Sihanouk residents protest again over evictions

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Share:
Authorities dismantle a home built near a cannal in Sihanoukville. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Dozens of residents in Preah Sihanouk province staged a second protest yesterday in Sihanoukville’s Buon commune as authorities resumed demolishing houses and shophouses built illegally along the banks of canals.

Provincial Governor Kuoch Chamroeun last month ordered residents living along canals and sidewalks in Sihanoukville to voluntarily remove the illegally built structures to pave the way for work to widen the canals.

Those who did not comply were warned that the authorities would tear down the constructions.

Mr Chamroeun said the houses and shophouses cause flooding because the canals are too narrow to effectively transport water.

However, the project was met with protests from residents, forcing authorities to suspend the work after they demolished dozens of shophouses and houses in Buon and Bei communes.

Yesterday, several residents staged a further protest when the authorities resumed work to demolish the illegal structures.

Chan Dara, a representative for the residents whose dwellings are affected, said they were not against the development plan but only wanted the authorities to compensate them.

“If our houses are destroyed, where will our children live?” he said. “We want the authorities to negotiate with us before taking any measures.”

“We did not block the whole canal and only built our homes along the banks after receiving permission from local officials,” Mr Dara added.

Another resident, who refused to give her name, said she had been living on the banks of the canal for 30 years after getting approval from commune officials.

She urged Mr Chamroeun to meet the residents to discuss compensation before taking action.

The resident blamed flooding in the city on the construction of new buildings and said their homes along the banks had minimal impact.

Provincial hall spokesman Kheang Phearom said in a recent interview the authorities are collecting information about those who are affected by the projects to identify which of them qualify to receive social land concessions. But he warned it would not lead to financial compensation.

“We have no policy to compensate anyone who builds illegal structures along the canal,” he said. “We have met with residents who are affected and even though some are protesting, others are not against the projects and volunteered to move by themselves,” he added.

Bou Vathana, deputy director of the provincial inter-sector department, said last week that the authorities plan to tear down the illegally built structures on the sections of the canal earmarked for widening.

“The projects will affect more than 1,000 homes – some will be completely demolished, while portions of others which encroach into the project sites will be removed,” he said. “About 300 homes are to be completely torn down.”

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