The Satrei Samaki Meanchey community is one of many in the Phnom Penh area were the residents are being forced to leave their homes and relocate to another area by the municipal authorities. Established in 1982, community members have been living in the area until the present day. Starting out with 32 families, the Satrei Samki Meanchey community now includes 46 since the beginning of 2014.
As with many cases of urban poor communities under current threat of eviction, the land Satrei Samaki Meanchey settled on was bought by the current residents with letters of ownership existing between the previous owner and the current community leader as well as signed witnesses. All of the houses in the community were built from scratch from the money of early residents. Today, these letters are proving difficult to be recognized as legitimate legal documents and so the land is officially part of the state.
As municipal authorities are looking to develop the back part of Boeung Kak Lake, where Satrei Samaki Meanchey is located, eviction notices have been given out to all the residents in order to clear the land. On the house of the community leader, and a majority of the other residents, codes have been spray painted above doors as notice of eviction.
The community leader, Pu Kun, met up with residents after the eviction announcement to discuss options and possible solutions. Over the past months he has contacted authorities such as the Ministry of Water, Transportation, and NGOs dealing with land rights to ask for help. Some of these organizations include STT, which was contacted in order to advocate for the residents, and CLEC, who provide lawyers to inform them about their legal rights and advise residents if illegal actions are happening.
Phnom Penh’s municipal authorities have recently come into Satrei Samaki Meanchey to take measurements of the land they are planning to claim and in the future give information on what areas exactly will be evicted. Community members, lacking trust in the legitimacy of the authorities’ claims, have asked Equitable Cambodia and World Vision to take additional measurements to make sure the numbers are correct. No announcement has been made so far on how much of the area will be taken.
In addition, District Authorities in the area have been contacted by residents. They have told community members that they are working towards a solution where once the lake is developed they can have the land that is left over. If a formal immediate eviction announcement is made, Pu Kun will make a new offer: residents will move to a new area as long as proper compensation is made. Unfortunately residents are all too aware of the tendency of the Cambodian authorities to send evicted communities to areas that are far from the city centre and lacking in basic infrastructure and services. The current community has access to state water and electricity, schools nearby, , and is deemed by residents to have an adequate level of safety.
It is easy to see why community members are reluctant to move from the land that they have purchased and built their lives around. Currently residents are fighting the eviction notice through the options made available to them.