The Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration has issued an order for people living and doing business on a section of 7 Makara, also known as Street 200, near the provincial referral hospital to vacate their lands by February 28 or face forced eviction.
Residents along the section of road in Village 4 of Mittapheap district’s Commune IV are instructed to dismantle all extant constructions and move off the premises in order to make way for a road construction project.
In a letter dated January 29, the provincial administration explained that officials had twice previously issued notifications to the same effect as well as another from the department of Public Works and Transport.
Provincial Hall spokesman Kheang Phearum told The Post that this recent fourth notification would be the last reminder for residents, and they could be subject to legal action.
“There will be two separate procedures. First, the administration will handle demolitions on specified sites. Then, authorities would pursue legal complaints. In fact, we do not want to take legal action and will only do so if necessary to avoid protests or clashes,” Phearum said.
According to the provincial administration’s data, about 20 of 150 households were registered as permanent addresses along the stretch of road under dispute.
“Authorities have been trying to explain and persuade them to cooperate with us. Some people have agreed to move out, but others have not,” he said.
Phearum said the 7 Makara street infrastructure project around the provincial referral hospital was nearly 1km long and is needed to serve the public interest as there are over 300,000 residents living in the province.
He added that enforcement actions were intended to facilitate completion of street construction before the beginning of the rainy season, and the project had already been delayed several times.
Provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc Cheap Sotheary told The Post that in cases where citizens’ houses may be demolished, authorities should negotiate with residents according to policy and established precedent.
“As far as I know, the provincial administration has already informed the residents, but demolition of people’s houses should be resolved in accordance with land policy, including proper compensation.
“The people living in that area have no options or ability to buy new land or houses to live in. Authorities should deal with this situation in the same way as last year when people were peacefully relocated from canal areas to new settlements,” she said.
In case of non-compliance by the February 28 deadline, provincial authorities will resort to administrative and legal measures based on Article 71 of the Law on Road Traffic, with a possible imposition of penalties including fines of up to 10 million riel ($2,500) or imprisonment of between one month and five years.
The 7 Makara street construction project was vetted by the provincial board of governors and the Technical Coordinating Committee before being approved by the provincial council on June 14.
The administration admitted that the project was scheduled to begin last year but has been delayed until now because residents living in the area have not yet complied with relocation notices.