As dusk settled yesterday on Borei Keila – where dozens of families on Monday stormed into and occupied developer Phan Imex’s unfinished Building 9 – community members milled about restlessly in an act of vigilance not unlike circling the wagons.
Fears of a coming crackdown had been stoked at an earlier meeting where Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong yesterday warned the families now occupying the half-built structure at the Borei Keila development site that authorities could not be held responsible if “any problem occurred” there, according to community members and City Hall itself.
The meeting between Socheatvong and representatives of the families – who took up residence in Building 9 as an act of protest against smaller-than-promised temporary resettlement plots – was ultimately fruitless.
Though it touched upon the issue of temporary plots, it also drew Borei Keila representatives’ ire for leaving out key sticking points like the size of the plots, and when community members could expect to receive the permanent apartments they had been promised in 2003 and 2004.
“He raised the issue of the temporary shelters for us, but when will we get flats or a real solution? Or will we live in temporary shelters like this forever?” community representative Prum Siha said.
Borei Keila representative Sar Sorn said yesterday that there were no guarantees that the temporary shelters wouldn’t simply become trash-strewn shanty-towns like the community’s current ad hoc relocation site.
“We’re concerned that the temporary shelters that authorities plan to build for us will become slums and be cleared again [by authorities] without compensating [residents],” she said, calling for the permanent flats promised in 2003 and 2004.
Though City Hall was silent yesterday on how they planned to deal with the occupiers, Prampi Makara district governor Som Sovann hinted at a crackdown, issuing a warning letter to the community saying the district was “preparing a plan for administrative measures”, but without offering a timeframe.