Nearly 100 people from eight communities living alongside railways in Phnom Penh yesterday gathered in front of City Hall demanding clarification on what will happen to them as their areas are redeveloped.
The residents, who have been protesting periodically for more than a year, want land titles for their homes and are worried about forced evictions.
The government last year backed down on plans to build an expressway to the airport along the train route. But early this year, district authorities and the Phnom Penh governor announced fresh plans to expand roads close to the old tracks.
Locals are still unclear exactly what development is planned and whether they will have to move.
The affected communities in Daun Penh and Toul Kork district include Akpiwat Thmey, Roum Chit Tae Mouy, Village 17, Village 104, Village 105, Phum 21 and Phum 23.
Phum 17 community resident Nou Sarin said the gathering took place to make the new Phnom Penh governor aware of their plight.
He said locals did not oppose development projects, but wanted the authorities to clearly explain the project, develop housing for them onsite and give them land titles.
“We want to meet the newly appointed Governor Khoung Sreng to know what he is doing about our concerns,” he said.
“We also want to know how much land they are going to take for development, to make it easy for people to prepare for further action.”
Another resident Tol Lyhov said their group would continue gathering at City Hall until they found a solution to their troubles.
He said they had asked to meet City Hall leaders on August 7 to further discuss the case.
According to the residents, Tuol Kork district governor Ek Khun Doeun and municipal land management officials hosted a forum to organise systematic land registration for people living along the railway on May 11.
At the time, the district governor said three options were being considered for the development project. One would mean 30 metres of land would be lost each side of the railway, the second would require 15 to 20 metres, and the last option would take 10.5 metres.
Locals said hundreds of families would be affected by all three options.
However City Hall spokesman Met Meas Pheakdey said the municipality still had no firm plan to develop the area.
If there is a development project, officials will organise public forums to consult residents, he added.
“We have not done anything at this location yet, so how can I give more information on it? If something is going to happen there, we will invite the people to meet, talk, or have a public forum at the site before the project is planned,” he said.
According to Mr Pheakdey, City Hall currently only plans to develop the railway from kilometre 6 of National Road 5 in Russei Keo district, because the tracks have not been used for many years.
Sia Phearum, executive director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said a lack of clarity over the situation was bound to make residents anxious and spark protests.
He called on the authorities to better explain the development projects and consult people to avoid controversy and ensure transparency.