Borei Keila evictees will have a chance to revisit the area they were forcibly evicted from this Sunday when authorities truck them back from the makeshift tents of their relocation site for a special purpose – to vote.
Touch Khorn, a representative of the Borei Keila community villagers who were evicted from their homes in Phnom Penh in January, said yesterday that their one-time Veal Vong commune chief, ruling party member Keo Sakal, had agreed to provide two trucks for the ballot.
“On June 3 at 6:00am, the trucks will go to take us to Phnom Penh,” he said.
The 133 families that were evicted by private security forces hired by development firm Phan Imex will have to travel some 50 kilometres from their Srah Po village relocation site in Kandal province’s Punhea Ley district.
Most are reluctant to divulge their political preferences, but despite the experience of seeing their homes bulldozed, some maintain they will stick with the Cambodian People’s Party.
San Sarom, 28, said he was willing to give Keo Sakal one more chance, but with a condition.
“I will try one more time to vote for the CPP, because I want to know if they will construct a brick house for me as they promised or not,” he said.
Keo Vuthy, 52, said on Monday that although he had been forced out of the village, Keo Sakal had been good to him, often giving him sarongs.
“I will go to vote for her, because she always helped me,” he said.
But not everyone will be voting on Sunday: many are unregistered voters and either never had the necessary documents required to vote, such as identity cards and family books, or lost them in the upheaval of the eviction.
Sitting in a narrow shack covered by blue tarp, 70-year-old Sin Vanny said she had lost her election card when she was forced to evacuate her house immediately during the eviction and could not get a new one because she had forgotten the code.
“I want to vote for a commune chief, but I have no right,” she said.
More pressing than elections for people here is the promise of land as compensation for their lost property.
Sin Vanny said the municipality told her they would not do this until after the election because they did not want to be accused of trying to attract votes.
Providing free transport to constituencies, however, was perfectly above board unless the CPP gave the villagers money, National Election Committee secretary-general Tep Nytha said, adding that no one could be forced to vote.
“In 2011, NEC didn’t deny any villagers [from] voting – they could not vote if they were not registered,” he said.
Sitting on a bamboo bed in a zinc-roofed house without any walls other than some blue tarpaulins, Ban Thuon, 37, said she had been promised a voting card after losing her old one, but not before these elections.
“I used to register at Veal Vong commune hall, but they did not do it for me, as they said that I did not have any documents, and they asked me to wait to do on September 1, 2012,” she said.
“On behalf of Cambodia, I want to have my right to go to vote for a good leader, but now I have lost my right,” she said.
In 2003, the government granted the company Phan Imex the right to develop 2.6 hectares of land at Borei Keila in exchange for building 10 buildings on two hectares of land.
But the company constructed only eight of the promised buildings and built a motorcycle shop on the land set aside for one of the final two, causing great outrage amongst those now set to be displaced.
On January 3, Borei Keila residents violently clashed with about 100 police, military police, security guards and Phan Imex employees as bulldozers moved into to destroy their homes.
The following day, those who had lost their homes were packed into trucks and driven to two relocation sites.
To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at [email protected]