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Mud-soaked residents scuffle with officials trying to demolish their homes

Pleading for help from the mud, residents scuffled with authorities in Cambodia’s capital on Tuesday as they tried to block machinery brought in to demolish their homes to make way for a planned high-rise development.

“I can’t live without my house! I used to cultivate rice during the dry season, but now they say I occupied the land illegally, and they will confiscate it,” cried a woman named Kong Toeur while sitting in waist-deep muddy water.

“All children must know this pain!” she shouted. “This is Cambodia law.” 

Another villager, Tim Ouk, said the villagers had done nothing wrong. “Authorities must stop all machinery from destroying our houses,” she said.

Such land disputes are common in Cambodia and other Southeast Asian countries as authorities seek land on which to build apartment buildings and shopping malls.

In this case, authorities have been looking for ways to evict food vendors and residents from the area next to Ta Mok Lake in Phnom Penhl’s Preaek Phnov district. 

The lake is the city’s largest, with a total area of more than 3,240 hectares (8,000 acres). Hundreds of hectares of Ta Mok Lake have already been filled in to pave the way for the development projects.

About 200 families are asking authorities to set aside four hectares of land from the development where they can live.

Translated by Yun Samean. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.