Source: Khmer Times
More than 100 adults and children representing six rail-side communities in Phnom Penh gathered at City Hall again yesterday, demanding to know if development plans will force them out of their homes.
Residents have protested numerous times in front of City Hall and the Transport Ministry, urging officials to explain the impact of a project to build a new road near their homes, to no avail.
But yesterday’s rally prompted Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong to meet with protesters and discuss the issue.
During the meeting, municipality leaders asked protesters to remain calm and told them not to worry about being evicted, since the development project is still in the research phase.
City Hall spokesman Met Meas Pheakdey said the governor will organize a forum to discuss the project with residents before any work begins, promising that people will not be forced out of their homes.
He said: “The governor has already confirmed he will work with residents. The people who attended the meeting heard what he said for themselves, so I think everyone is reassured.”
Representatives of the protesters said they doubted the pledge from the authorities, since no one has signed any legal document to confirm they won’t be evicted, but they agreed to suspend protests and work with City Hall to monitor the development project.
Earlier this month, the group submitted a petition calling on officials to explain the project clearly and meet with residents who live nearby before development begins.
Village 17 resident Nou Sarin said protesters gathered again because Phnom Penh Municipality had not responded to the petition they submitted on March 15.
He said: “If this development is going ahead, people affected by it should be allowed to participate in planning, to make sure everything goes smoothly and avoid any problems.”
Sia Phearum, the executive director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said the protests showed how City Hall and government too often fail to engage locals in discussions about decisions that affect them.
The protesters come from Akpiwat Thmey, Roum Chit Tae Mouy, village 17, village 104 and village 105 in Tuol Kork district and village 2 in Daun Penh district.