Page last updated at 06:50 GMT, Saturday, 24 January 2009

Cambodian slum dwellers evicted

By Guy De Launey
BBC News, Phnom Penh

Residents watch bulldozers at work in Dey Krahorm
The land on which Dey Krahorm stood has bought by a property developer

Police have been overseeing the eviction of hundreds of people from a slum community in the centre of the in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

Residents of Dey Krahorm, who have been fighting eviction for the best part of three years, say they have a legal right to the land.

But the local authorities signed it over to a property developer.

It is the latest in a series of evictions, which have accompanied a dramatic increase in land values.

Dawn operation

As the bulldozers moved into Dey Krahorm at dawn on Saturday, residents had little chance of resisting.


Hundreds of military and civilian police accompanied workers from the property developer which bought the land from the city.

At first, they would not allow journalists or human rights workers to observe the eviction, and forcibly removed those who had made it through the barricades.

Dey Krahorm had been the heart of Cambodia's artistic community. Traditional musicians and dancers held classes there in an effort to pass on their skills to the younger generation.

Their instruments could be seen among the rubble, along with the other belongings of the former residents.

'Excessive force'

Housing rights workers criticised the way the eviction was carried out, saying it was unnecessarily violent.

"They cannot stand again because of the excessive use of force, of tear gas. A few of my colleagues got hurt more than me," said Yeng Virak of the Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC).

Residents stand amid rubble
Housing rights workers said the eviction was unnecessarily violent

The evicted residents will be taken to land on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

The local authorities and the developers say they will find better living conditions there, with running water, electricity, health centres and schools.

Phnom Penh's deputy governor, Mann Chhoeun, insists the city has been generous to the people of Dey Krahorm.

But the residents say the negotiations had not finished and that they have not received fair compensation for their land.

They add that moving outside the city centre will stop them from earning a living.

The demise of Dey Krahorm will also cause concern among several other communities threatened with eviction.

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