02 Jul 2012 04:00
A lively and cultural community in Siem Reap has come to an abrupt and sad end. Nearly 400 Cambodian and Vietnamese families have been evicted from their homes beside the Siem Reap river in the Slokram commune of the city. The decision has been made by officials - with the reasons stated as needing to develop, widen the river and make new communal gardens.
The Vietnamese and Cambodians I spoke to told me how after notification by letter to take down their fragile wooden shacks on stilts, and find a new home elsewhere.
A considerable police force arrived in the early hours, and demanded that all families and businesses had one day to leave, or their homes would be destroyed.
Because some of these river residents have been living and working in the area for over 15 years, I was told that the government have offered the Cambodian residents a small piece of land at Sala Kamroeuk commune, 6 kilometers outside the city on a flood plain. They will also receive a small payment of a few hundred dollars.
I have recently spoken to some of the evicted families and still they have received no compensation, so even if they did decide to move to proposed flood prone area they would not have enough money to build simple shelters.
However, the Vietnamese have been given a small amount of compensation, but have no land rights, up to 10 families with countless children are all now homeless.
That morning, an emergency meeting was called so that the residents could protest to the district governor about the situation; I attended on the invite of a Vietnamese family, and on our return to the commune, some families found that their properties had been taken down in their absence.