City Hall has agreed to the Group 34 community's request to be moved to
Dangkor district, saying it has adopted a new policy to deal with
Two residents of Group 34 walk in the rain in Phnom Penh on Monday after having heard they will be staying in Phnom Penh.
NEARLY all of the 258 families from a Phnom Penh slum displaced by fire earlier this year will be allowed to remain in the capital rather than face relocation to a site some 50 kilometres from their homes, community residents and municipal officials said after a deal was struck with City Hall.
The agreement is being touted by city officials as a "participatory approach" to the development that critics say is encouraging mass evictions.
"The people need to join the government in the city's development. It is a participatory approach," Mann Chhoeun, the deputy governor of Phnom Penh said on Sunday.
"I joined many workshops in the international community where they championed just such a development strategy."
The families, from Group 34 near Sovanna Market, have agreed in principle to the plan, which will see 238 of them move to a site in Phnom Penh's Dangkor district, community representatives said Monday.
But as part of the deal, families will need to pay a small fee of between 10,000 riels (US$2.50) and 20,000 riels to the municipality - a
requirement that has some grumbling.
"If I have enough for food and medical care, then I can help the government buy the land. But now, I don't have enough," said Kaut Sokhorn, 51.
After a suspicious fire during the Khmer New Year destroyed about 150 houses, authorites told the families they would be moved to a site near Udong mountain in Kandal province.
People will come back to phnom Penh if we move them out to other provinces.
But on May 11, community representatives sent a request to the municipality and the Senate asking to be moved to Prey Khla village in Dangkor district, only about 10 kilometres from their current homes.
"When City Hall agreed to our offer to move us to Dangkor, I was very happy," said resident Sansrey Mom, 42. "I will be able to ride an old bicycle to the construction sites."
Mann Chhoeun said that the municipality had changed its decision after people who were forcibly evicted in the past kept returning to Phnom Penh.
"The people will come back to Phnom Penh if we move them out to other provinces, because they think that we have abandoned them," he said, adding that "this new government policy will mean that people who are from Phnom Penh can be moved to other places in Phnom Penh, but not to other provinces".
Mathieu Pellerin, a monitoring consultant for rights group Licadho, said that even many relocation sites in the Phnom Penh Municipality are still too far from the city centre, but added: "For once in my life, I agree with Mann Chhoeun ... [Evictions to other provinces] are forcing families to come home to Phnom Penh, and some of these families are sleeping in the street."
Mann Chhoeun listed another reason that the Group 34 community would not be be moved outside of Phnom Penh: Kandal province Governor Chhun Sirun did not want them.
"I heard that 30 percent are gangsters who smoke yaba, so I was not happy," Chhun Sirun said.