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Airport communities share eviction stories for new film

A woman walks by a house in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district
A woman walks by a house in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district, in which homes are being evicted due to airport expansion. Pha Lina

Airport communities share eviction stories for new film

A short film that tells the stories of residents affected by Phnom Penh’s airport evictions will premiere this evening at Meta House.

The Eviction of the Airport Community is a short documentary directed by Sophea Nget and produced by the human rights group Equitable Cambodia.

Executive director Eang Vuthy said that the aim is to raise awareness among the public and to put pressure on the government. “Our intention is to share the impacts of the airport expansion”, he said, adding: “We have interviewed NGOs and also the government, so we have a few actors to tell the story.”

In 2012, residents of five communities in Por Sen Chey district were handed eviction notices to make way for the expansion of the Phnom Penh International Airport, which is being overseen by the private firm Société Concessionnaire de l’Aéroport. The government has since outsourced environmental impact assessments to the private firm Green Goal.

The Eviction of the Airport Community explores the current situation through a collection of interviews with residents who face eviction.

One of these residents is Phoung Sopheap, 40, who lives with her seven children in Thmor Kol community.

“I will keep protesting as I bought my land legally and I am concerned that I won’t get fair compensation”, explained Sopheap, adding that her children cannot attend school due to financial restraints and instability.

Meas Srey Pov, 44, has lived in the Thmor Kol community since 2011 when she was evicted from Borei Keila.

She is worried for her family’s safety and said that she doesn’t know what will happen to them. “People in my community might face eviction again, and sometimes they will suffer violence. I worry that my village will be destroyed by private companies or the government if nobody helps”, she said.

The affected communities are currently campaigning for compensation. Sia Phearum, director of Housing Rights Task Force, said: “NGOs and the airport authorities are revising the memorandum of understanding.”

However, Chan Soveth, deputy of land and natural resources rights at Adhoc, said that residents are afraid because some families – like that of Srey Pov – have already been evicted from Borei Keila and

Boeung Kak communities and are concerned that it will happen again. “They feel upset and insecure,” he said.

According to Vuthy, it’s important that the affected communities play as active a role as NGOs, SCA and the government in deciding on appropriate compensation and resettlement. “Hopefully all parties working together can come up with a good solution”, he said.

Vuthy said that it was the residents who decided that they wanted to show the film publicly. “The team wanted to do this and the community wanted to raise more awareness, so we wanted to support them”, he said.

This isn’t the first documentary that Equitable Cambodia has been involved in.

In 2013, the organisation successfully campaigned the government and the Asian Development Bank with The Rehabilitation of the Cambodian Railways Project. In February 2014, ADB announced that victims would be properly compensated.

Sopheap has high hopes for this time around too. “I hope this screening will show people and help my community with a good solution,” she said, “and that the government and the private company can compensate with acceptance.”

The Eviction of the Airport Community will premiere tonight at Meta House, #37 Sothearos Boulevard, at 7pm.

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