Sign says Phnom Penh land dispute is settled – but residents disagree — Radio Free Asia

A long-running land dispute in Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh took another twist Tuesday when authorities posted a big sign saying that evicted residents have agreed to move to another location – even though most residents said that wasn’t true.

The dispute began nearly five years ago when former Prime Minister Hun Sen gave residential land near Tamok Lake to developers who plan to build a high-rise building. 

Ever since, authorities have been trying to evict about 200 families from their homes in the Samrong Tbong community in the capital’s Prek Pnov district.

Land disputes are common in Cambodia and other Southeast Asian countries. Government officials routinely seize land for lucrative real estate ventures, leaving displaced local residents with little or no recourse.

About three weeks ago, about 50 residents began a protest on the land – some of them in waist-deep muddy water around the construction site – to demand that President Hun Manet’s government grant them the right to keep their land.

On Tuesday, district authorities put up a metal sign nearly two meters, or 6 feet, wide, saying: “This location has been settled according to [government] policy.”

A view of some of the houses in the Tamok Lake area of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 26, 2024. (Citizen journalist)
A view of some of the houses in the Tamok Lake area of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 26, 2024. (Citizen journalist)

But representatives of the community say the sign does not reflect the will of the majority.

Samrong Tbong community representative Sea Davy told Radio Free Asia that 27 families accepted land swaps with the authorities, while 70 others refused the deal, wanting to remain on their land and build houses. 

She asked the government to grant residents, who do not want land in a different area, the right to build on their own land.

The land dispute has left some of the people impoverished and with high debt, while some children have dropped out of school to help their parents earn a living. 

RFA was unable to reach Phnom Penh Gov. Khuong Sreng or district Gov. Them Sam An for comment.

Residents say they will continue to protest until a solution is found.

Translated by Yun Samean for RFA Khmer. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.

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