Residents affected by a railway development project in villages 16 and 17 in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district have rejected an offer of compensation to vacate homes and move either to land owned by local developer 7NG in Kandal province or in Kork Kasach area in the capital’s Kamboul district.

On October 11, five people representing the 30 affected families sat down with Tuol Kork district authorities to discuss compensation for land behind Wat Toul Os Lok pagoda or alternative plots of land in Tuol Kork district after an official notice that their houses would be demolished to give way to the construction of concrete roads and reservoirs in the railway area.

Huy Sathean, one of the residents who met with Tuol Kork district authorities, told The Post on October 12 that the meeting failed to resolve the issue because officials still wanted people to accept the 7NG offer.

She added that instead of losing their homes, the residents asked for a land swap behind the pagoda or another area in Tuol Kork district as it is easier for them to maintain existing livelihoods, especially their children who can continue studying at their current schools.

“We have no objection or opposition to such developments. However, we stand by our request for compensation in exchange for a place in the same district or near Tuol Santevoan pagoda, better known as Tuol Os Lok, which is located in our area, then we will agree to leave,” she said.

Another resident, Kov Sarun, said if they were refused land in the district, they would not vacate their homes as leaving there would make their livelihoods difficult because the offered area had no infrastructure and schools and people could also lose their jobs.

“We have made it clear that we will not accept it and will make further demands. If there is no result, we will submit a request to Prime Minister [Hun Sen] to solve the problem immediately, because the municipal and district halls are not able to find a compromise,” he said.

Tuol Kork district governor Chea Pisey could not be reached for comment on October 12, while Hour Huot, the district’s head of administration, declined to comment, saying he was busy.

Soeung Saran, executive director of the housing rights NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, urged authorities to find a solution. He observed that in general, the offer by authorities to the families seemed unacceptable.

“When there is a win-win strategy, the people are happy to accept and create peace. And authorities will be praised for addressing the issue,” he said.

He added that offering an unacceptable solution would lead to protests and also cause social injustice.