Development firm Phan Imex is finally building one of two long-awaited buildings on the site of this year’s violent Borei Keila evictions, but evicted residents will find little to cheer.
Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post
In the background is one of eight apartment blocks that were built for former Borei Keila residents, as well as a building under construction. The new building is not intended to house evicted residents.
The new building, the ninth of 10 promised to residents displaced for a development project, was not intended for the evicted families, a Phan Imex representative told the Post yesterday.
As about 40 Borei Keila evictees gathered at the site to continue to plead for a solution to their housing woes, construction workers, who did not want to be named, revealed they were carrying out work for Phan Imex on the construction site.
They would not confirm what they were building, and said they did not know what Phan Imex planned to do with it when they were finished.
U Navy, an employee of Phan Imex, said the building under construction “will not be given” to evicted Borei Keila families, but she did not specify what it will be used for.
The Post made numerous calls to the company’s owner, Suy Sophan, but her spokespeople provided various reasons why she was not answering her phone, including that she was cooking, had left her phone in her driver’s car or had left her phone on charge while she did something else.
When reached, she declined to comment because she was busy.
Phan Imex announced in 2010 it could not build the final two buildings it had agreed to because of bankruptcy.
About 200 families were evicted on January 3 and relocated to Tuol Sambo village, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, or Srah Po village, in Kandal province.
Protester Tim Sakmonny, who has been arrested twice in Borei Keila demonstrations, was shocked the company was constructing “building nine” without offering a them a solution.
“They [Phan Imex] tried to force us to accept a small house on the city’s outskirts or land the size of five by twelve metres in Kandal province and $100 – and now they go and build this,” she said.
“We refused. What we are demanding is a flat in Borei Keila that the company had signed a contract promising to build,” she said.
Since Phan Imex workers demolished her family’s house, they have been sleeping on stairs or outside at Borei Keila, Tim Sakmonny said.
Phan Imex originally agreed to construct 10 six-floor buildings on two hectares of land to house 1,776 displaced families, in exchange for the right to develop the remaining 2.6 hectares.
U Navy said some of the protesters had already received land titles and a flat, but had sold or given it to other people, then returned to ask for more.
“How can the company offer this [building] to these people?” she said.
The company had more than 100 rooms in other buildings for those who had specific and accurate documents, she said, while those with “inaccurate documents” were still being assigned some kind of house or land.
“I think those who have accurate documents should talk with the company rather than join the protest with those who do not having specific documents and are greedy,” she said.
Nhem Vuthy, 28, said she had documents that were recognised by “all relevant authorities”, but the company was yet to give her a house.
“Why have they been building houses if they are not going to give them to poor people in Borei Keila,” she said.
Keo Kosal, Veal Vong commune chief in 7 Makara district, said she did not know whether the building under construction would house Borei Keila families in the future.
“I don’t know why the company is constructing this ninth building, but I want all residents to have houses and live safely,” she said.
Sia Phearum, secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said he was not aware that a ninth building was being constructed.
“We’re not clear on this development,” he said.
“I think if Phan Imex sells this land, it is yet another injustice for the people and it would seem the company has abandoned poor people and is interested only in companies with money.
“If they do not finish what they agreed to, they have violated the agreement, and I would ask the Anti-Corruption Unit to investigate this to improve accountability. The government should also act.”