As the ASEAN summit turns Phnom Penh into a buzz of diplomatic activity, the chance to send a well-timed message has not been lost on the local community.
Fifteen representatives of the evicted families of Borei Keila yesterday filed a petition asking US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – who is due to arrive later this week to take part in the capital’s ongoing ASEAN meetings – to press the Cambodian government for a speedier resolution of their plight.
Evictee representative Chum Ngan, 39, passed the Khmer-language petition, which she said detailed the history of the Borei Keila land dispute, to a security guard outside the embassy.
“To date, we are sheltering under leaked tents, canvas and stairs close to piles of rubbish,” Chum Ngan told reporters.
A spokesman for the embassy confirmed receipt of the petition, but did not say whether Clinton, who recently spoke out on behalf of the then-imprisoned Boeung Kak 13 land protesters, would get a chance to read it.
Villagers have lived under staircases and in squalor since Phan Imex, backed by the Phnom Penh municipal authority, demolished their homes on January 3.
Others accepted relocation to barely improved sites on the outskirts of the capital and in Kandal province.
When the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights, Surya Subedi, visited the families in May, he told them: “The conditions in which you have been forced to live don’t seem to be adequate for the 21st century.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Khouth Sophak Chakrya at firstname.lastname@example.org