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CAMBODIA – “I don’t know where to go”. Heartbreak as 700 families in floating houses ordered out in 7 days


Son Minea Khmer Times June 3, 2021

Phnom Penh City Hall set a one-week deadline for people who live in floating houses along the Mekong and Tonle Sap Rivers to move out. KT/Siv Channa

PHNOM PENH – Some 700 families living in floating houses in Phnom Penh’s Tonle Sap river have been given seven days by the Phnom Penh City Hall to move out or legal action will be initiated.

The order was issued yesterday with City Hall announcing that they were going to dismantle or relocate the floating houses, fish farms, and boathouses or any other unregulated and illegal structures on the river surface.

In the notification dated June 2, City Hall has asked everyone on the river surface to move out immediately as per the announcement.

It said that some opportunists have taken the opportunity to stay on the river illegally and carry out illegal fishing.

Furthermore, it said, the floating houses, houseboats, fish farms, and other illegal structures on the river surface were disrupting and affecting the waterways, ecosystem, shallow water flow which disrupts fish breeding, water quality drop with water pollution due to open defecation in the river, and waste disposal.

It also said that they were severely damaging the aquatic biodiversity as well as among other things affecting the health of people who use the unclean water.

In view of the adverse effect created by people living on the river surface, the City Hall which  wants everyone to relocate themselves immediately.

It said that action will be taken against anyone who does not adhere to their directive, including court action.

Khmer Times went on the ground to interview some of the affected families who said some of them have been living in the floating houses since 1979 and had nowhere to go.

Man Rohok who lives in a floating house at Chroy Chongva district said he came to know about this new order from the Phnom Penh governor yesterday.

“We live in floating houses as our livelihood depended on fishing. Those living on floating houses or boathouses are locals and not from other provinces. Some of them were born in the ‘River Village’,” he added.

He said they have to live in the river for so long that they don’t know where to go if asked to leave immediately.

Rohok said the way the authorities give the deadline is like looking at them like animals to be kicked here and there.

“It’s heartbreaking, we are sad and disappointed as we are Cambodians and we are poor. It’s not that we want to live on the river surface with no comfort and risking our health and lives. We have no choice,” he added.

In the last 10 years, he said the families in floating houses were moved by the authorities at Wat Chas pagoda and promised to allocate land for them to live but until today no land and no solution.

Meus Simas who is a widow lives in the floating house for she has a big responsibility of having to look after her four children with income coming from catching fish.

“I don’t know where to go,” she added.

Yu Sous said he has been living in the floating house for 20 years with his grandmother.

“Everyone here is poor. Their life is the river. Life for the poor is really very hard,” he said, adding that all they want is someplace to live and it will be good if the authorities could give them a land.

Cambodia News Home

SOURCE – Khmer Times, Cambodia  June 3, 2021

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