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Forced Evictions Highlights Hazards of Urban Development

Recent clashes between residents of a Phnom Penh shanty neighborhood and a local construction company, along with the torching of the company's truck Tuesday, highlight some of the uncertainty Cambodia's urban poor live under.

More than 100 families are facing persecution and intimidation from city authorities and private business interests in the Red Earth neighborhood of Tonle Bassac commune, Chamkarmon district, said Am Samath, a monitor for the rights group Licadho.

The area is slated for development and the residents have been ordered to leave, leading to several clashes in recent weeks.

At least six people have been charged following a rock-throwing exchange on Tuesday, as residents worried the 7NG company from tearing down their homes, Am Samath said. At least one person was in Prey Sar prison as a result of clashes, which also led to the burning of a truck, he said, speaking as a guest Thursday on "Hello VOA."

Company officials have said they are caught between a city policy to move the people and the people's resistance to moving.

"We want only peaceful resolution and proper compensation," said Chan Vichet, a village representative who was also a guest on Thursday's show. "We do not want intimidation or problems."

He appealed to Prime Minister Hun Sen to help the residents find a "reasonable exchange."

Since the truck was lighted on fire, said Loa Seyha, another resident on the show, parents have not allowed their children to go to school.

"We fear [authorities] will remove our homes," Loa Seyha said.

In 2005, 1,200 families were similarly removed from a Dankao District development site, and have since faced daily challenges far from city services, schools or jobs. Even now, the families have only informal land certificates, leading to worries they could be moved again.

The residents of the Red Earth neighborhood say they fear the same fate.