Despite a last-ditch offer by the municipality that expired Wednesday, only 20 of the remaining families have left the hotly contested central city site
Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
Dey Krahorm residents at a press conference to discuss their pending relocation on Wednesday.
RESIDENTS of the Dey Krahorm community, along with a coalition of NGOs, reiterated their position Wednesday that the ongoing land dispute should be resolved through peaceful negotiations rather than forced evictions.
The residents sent a letter to the Phnom Penh Municipality expressing their desire to negotiate with the private developer 7NG, suggesting they were open to relocate in exchange for compensation they deemed adequate.
Also Wednesday, 10 families accepted an offer to relocate in exchange for US$20,000.
Chan Vichet, a Dey Krahorm resident who spoke on behalf of the families remaining in the community, said most residents did not have enough time to consider the $20,000 offer, which was announced Monday night and expired Wednesday.
"We did not even have time to talk with our wives," Chan Vichet said.
He said 152 families remained in the settlement, although the Phnom Penh Municipality maintains that only 91 families have not yet left.
The Housing Rights Task Force in Cambodia, a coalition of NGOs and community-based organisations, issued a statement Wednesday calling on officials to allow for detailed negotiations and to give residents sufficient time to consider relocation offers.
"Taking time to reach a peaceful agreement will clearly demonstrate the municipality's kindness and commitment to respect for human rights and the rule of law," David Pred, director of Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia, said in the statement.
Mann Chhoeun, deputy governor of Phnom Penh, took issue with the notion that the officials had not been patient with the remaining residents, saying that evictions could have begun as early as December 30, the date by which an eviction notice ordered them to move. He also said the $20,000 offer was originally set to expire Tuesday before officials extended it for a day, adding that the municipality would be willing to engage with those residents who were open to negotiate the terms of a possible relocation.
"We are not cold-hearted," Mann Chhoeun said.
Pred and other NGO leaders maintain that the residents of Dey Krahorm are lawful possessors of their homes under the Land Law, and thus are entitled to the right to negotiate a relocation price acceptable to them.