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Deadline arrives for Borei Keila residents

Ngov Nary, one of the last Borei Keila residents, refuses to accept the compensation she says is unjust in an interview in Phnom Penh earlier this month.
Ngov Nary, one of the last Borei Keila residents, refuses to accept the compensation she says is unjust in an interview in Phnom Penh earlier this month. Hong Menea

Deadline arrives for Borei Keila residents

Villagers in one of Phnom Penh’s fiercest land disputes said yesterday they are determined to stay in Borei Keila despite today’s deadline to either accept compensation or leave with nothing.

On December 8, City Hall issued a letter notifying the remaining holdouts, who say the proposed relocation site is inadequate and remote, that they had to reach an agreement within two weeks.

Community representative Sar Sorn said none of the roughly 30 families had accepted compensation since then. Just 11 of those families have been found to have a legitimate claim to the land.

The land dispute started in 2007 when the site, which is close to the Olympic Stadium, was granted to the Phanimex company to develop the area. Years of mass evictions and protests followed after the company promised to build 10 houses nearby for evicted residents but only built eight.

About 90 percent of the residents in the area have accepted compensation, though many have complained that the relocation site lacks a school for children, as well as a market and access to job
opportunities.

“We will not receive this unjust compensation. We need a home in Borei Keila and ask the City Hall to urge Phanimex . . . to provide the home for us,” Sorn said. “Why does the City Hall need to move us to Andong village? We will struggle to stay here to wait until the City Hall takes action on us.”

In the municipality’s letter earlier this month, it warned it would take “administrative measures” if residents refused to move, though it remained unclear yesterday what consequences could follow.
City Hall spokesman Met Measpheakdey said that “after the deadline the City Hall will take action to implement our announcement”.

“We may not allow them to live unlawfully in Borei Keila,” he said, without elaborating further.

Vann Sophat, a coordinator at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights who has worked with affected Borei Keila residents, said he had not been informed what consequences the holdouts might face. “We do not know what will happen after the deadline,” he said.

“So far they are in the position that they want the room in Borei Keila . . . When this action [of tearing down the building] may be taken, these 11 people will be landless, homeless.”

Additional reporting by Leonie Kijewski

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