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City Hall OKs eviction of Borei Keila residents

Members of HIV community, govt dispute terms under which families will relocate.

CITY Hall officially signed off Tuesday on the eviction of the Borei Keila HIV community, said one resident who was present when Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun approved the order, adding that the more than 30 affected families would likely be removed Thursday.

"Mann Chhoeun has approved this already," said community leader Sao Vanna.

The order, which must be finalised by Governor Kep Chuktema, comes amid accusations by Borei Keila residents that they were tricked by authorities into agreeing to the move with promises that they would be given larger homes at the Tuol Sambo site, more than 20 kilometres from their current homes near Olympic Stadium.

"We know that the authorities are cheating us, because they told us if we agree to put our thumbprint we will move to a home without dividers to make two houses into one house," said resident Chheang Toma following a meeting at the Prampi Makara district offices during which they demanded larger abodes.

The city is currently providing sheet-metal houses measuring only 3.5 metres by 4.8 metres and will provide each family with US$250 once they get on the truck to Tuol Sambo. Officials confirmed Tuesday that only four families would receive extra space.

"Without two houses being made into one, I cannot move," said another resident, Suon Davy. "We face discrimination already, because many people in that community know that we have AIDS."

Government officials have denied that any housing promises were made. They also disputed resident's claims that City Hall was forcing them to move too quickly.

"The residents are forcing us to move them soon. We told them, ‘Please wait, it won't be so long,' because we want to get support from other NGOs for them," Mann Choeun said.

Kathleen O'Keefe, a consultant who has been following the community since 2006, said unless a last-minute plan resolution is reached,

Cambodia's reputation as a model  for HIV/AIDS prevention would be seriously damaged.

"Cambodia will become one of the few countries in the world where people with HIV/AIDS have, at the initiative of the government, been deliberately segregated from other members of society," she said.

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