District officials deceived the HIV community of Borei Keila into thumbprinting an agreement to vacate homes, residents claim
Borei Keila resident Horm Oun checks out the homes at Tuol Sambo, to which she could be relocated this week.
MEMBERS of the Borei Keila community, where more than 30 families with HIV-positive members are facing eviction, say they were duped by district authorities Friday into agreeing to leave their neighbourhood near Olympic Stadium in exchange for larger homes at a relocation site outside the city.
"The authorities are cheating. When we agreed to thumbprint, the authorities told us they would remove the dividers to make two houses into one house," said resident Sok Sinethe.
But Horm Oun, another Borei Keila resident, said, "Lim Seda [the deputy chief of Prampi Makara district] told us after we gave our thumbprints we cannot make two houses into one".
"I felt hopeless when I heard this," she said.
The chief officer of the district's development programme, Sok Ath, said the Borei Keila residents were mistaken.
"We did not make promises or threaten them for their thumbprints. We only agreed to take their request for larger homes to City Hall for a decision," he said, adding that they would also ask City Hall that instead of buying two tuk-tuks to ferry people into the city for work, that it give each family US$250.
Sao Vanna, the chief of the HIV community, who does not live with the families facing eviction, said 20 families will be moved to Tuol Sambo perhaps as early as today.
Sao Vanna, who will set up an office at Tuol Sambo, blamed NGOs for the conditions at the relocation site.
"Before, City Hall had plans to construct 4-metre-by-12-metre homes and called upon the NGOs to fund the construction and infrastructure, but without NGO funding ... City Hall did not have enough money," he said.
But on Sunday during a visit to Tuol Sambo - about an hour's tuk-tuk ride away from Borei Keila - residents said that it was clear the municipality could do more to support them.
Ten paces from the green metal shelters that will house the families, workers are building brick homes for families from Russey Keo who lost their houses after a riverbank collapse. According to a construction worker, the Russey Keo homes will be 4 metres by 8 metres, almost double the floor space of the HIV community's homes, which are 3.5 metres by 4.8 metres.
"Why does the municipality make small houses for us and big homes for others?" Sok Sineth asked.
Residents also fear that their community, which is already known as "the AIDS village", will face discrimination.
Resident Touch Chhay Ran said when she visited Tuol Sambo last month she overheard local villagers insulting the Borei Keila community, giving her fears that she will need to endure discrimination on a daily basis.
"They said they were afraid that their community would catch AIDS from us, turning all of Tuol Sambo into ‘the AIDS village'," she said.