Boeng Tompun Residents Rebuild Demolished Homes

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Three dump trucks and three excavators dig out the future reservoir in Boeng Tompun I commune on July 21, 2021. (Danielle Keeton-Olsen/VOD)

Boeng Tompun residents whose homes were demolished by Phnom Penh authorities last month to make way for a reservoir said they are rebuilding sections of their homes because they have no other alternative.

Officials attempted to demolish homes belonging to 10 families on August 13 to make way for a new reservoir. Villagers protested the move, saying they were given only one-week notice to leave their homes. Authorities initially demolished only two homes.

The development of the lake has been controversial for its ecological impacts and allocation of the land to private interests close to the government.

Phal Chamroeun’s house was destroyed during the August demolition drive. The Boeng Tompun resident said on Thursday that he had no option but to build a temporary shelter again on the same site because he had nowhere else to live in the city. He pleaded with authorities to find an amicable resolution  to the dispute because residents were not against the development project.

“In fact, a development always has impacts, which is the same everywhere. However, the government should consider the impact on the people [and provide] a suitable resolution so that we can afford to live elsewhere,” Chamroeun said.

Chamroeun has been living on the land since 1995, he said, and had documents from local officials to prove his residency.

Ban Sichan, another resident of the area, said one part of his house had been demolished and he was in the process of rebuilding it. He said residents were reluctant to leave and were waiting to see if the government would make them an offer.

He said, “I’m currently waiting to see the resolution from them. We will follow what other people do, as I do not have the ability to make requests personally.”

Meanchey district governor Pich Keo Mony could not be reached for comment on Thursday, but has said in the past that authorities would not compensate the 10 families because they were illegally living on state land. 

Am Sam Ath, deputy director for rights group Licadho, said refusing to address people’s concerns would result in disputes like the one at Boeng Tompun.

“We know that a company wants benefits from the development, and the state must ensure these benefits do not affect the lives of people, their houses and land,” he said. “The state must have a resolution for the residents; it is the duty of the state.”

During the August demolition drive, authorities harassed two journalists, prevented them from reporting the story, and deleted photos of the event and confiscated press passes.

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