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River widening divides opinions

By Thik Kaliyann,The PP Post,16 March 2012

More than 30 families living near the Siem Reap River in Siem Reap’s Aranh Sakor village have sent a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen and member of parliament Seang Nam, asking not to be evicted from their land because of the planned widening of the river.

120316_02bA man being relocated from an area near the Siem Reap river stands near partly dismantled homes last month. Photo Thik Kaliyann

Village resident Dy Saroeun, 34, said authorities had measured her land, but failed to provide her with any explanation regarding the purpose or result of the measurement.
“We have lived along this channel [of the river] since the Khmer Rouge regime. Why do they want us to relocate if we don’t live on government land?” Dy Saroeun said, adding that she possessed legal documents that proved her ownership of the land.

Siem Reap district governor Tep Bun Chhay told the Post yesterday villagers living by the river did not understand the river was being widened to protect Siem Reap town against the effects of flooding and bolster development.

“Widening Siem Reap’s river has cost more than US$1 million. That is not a joke,” Tep Bun Chhay said.

“We would like to widen the river in a straight line, and that may affect some of those families [living along the river], but we will give them compensation and land.”

In their letter to the premier, villagers asked that the river be widened in its current shape, as opposed to the provincial planning authority’s plan to straighten it out during the widening process.

However, some of the villagers were not bothered by the idea of moving, as long as the government provided them with fair compensation for their relocation.
Resident Seng Sok Heng said she had given authorities permission to measure her land even though she had no information about the final plans.

“We will relocate to a new place if the compensation is acceptable,” she said.

Nineteen families have already been relocated after receiving monetary compensation, as well as a seven-by-15 metre plot of land.

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