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Evictees seek border housing

HUNDREDS of families from Phnom Penh's former Dey Krahorm community that are currently eking out an existence in the outskirts of the city have asked to be relocated to areas along the Thai border in Preah Vihear province, residents told the Post Thursday.

Long Dara, a community representative, said hundreds of families from Dey Krahorm were living in shelters at the Damnak Trayoeng relocation site in Dangkor district, and that local developer 7NG had yet to provide them with satisfactory housing.

He said the villagers had decided to push for a move to Preah Vihear after hearing the prime minister announce the availability of land in the province.

"They were happy after hearing Prime Minister Hun Sen say on local television that he has land to provide to poor families," Long Dara said. "After that, they came to talk with us about presenting a plan to ask the government for land. Now they want to live in Preah Vihear."

Long Dara said the Damnak Trayoeng site, located about 16 kilometres from the city, is home to 578 families that were evicted from Dey Krahorm, including more than 100 that were kicked out in a violent eviction in January.

"We are preparing the documents to present to the authorities, and will ask that they pass them along to Prime Minister Hun Sen," he added.

Kem Yan, another community representative, said 85 percent of the residents were willing to make the move north and had thumbprinted documents that were submitted to authorities in Dangkor district's Choam Chao commune.

In addition to land, he said, residents are also requesting that authorities provide them with transportation to Preah Vihear and enough food to last them for the first month.

"They want to go because they want to get real land and a house. They don't want to live like they do right now," Kem Yan said.

"They have been evicted for nearly a year, but they still live in a shelter along the road."

At dawn on January 24, hundreds of police and construction workers forcibly evicted the remaining families from the Dey Krahorm community in central Phnom Penh.

The residents were evicted to make way for a commercial and residential development to be built by 7NG. Six months later, the land remains undeveloped.

Former Dey Krahorm resident Horn Sar said the families were tired of living in constant limbo and wanted to settle somewhere for good.

"We don't want to live somewhere a short time and move again and again like this, to live forever worrying about being evicted," he said.

But he said he was not confident that the government would make land in Preah Vihear available, adding, "I don't know how long we will wait to get a result from the authorities."

Move in the works?
Choam Chao commune Chief Soth Sath said he had heard that residents were considering a move, but had not yet received the request in writing.

He said, "I will help them to pass the documents to senior officials if I receive their documents, but I don't know if they will agree or not. It is up to the government."

But Soth Sath questioned the figure of 578 families, calling it a "fake number" designed to obtain extra land in Preah Vihear. He said the real number was around 380.

Asked about the proposed move, Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong said Thursday that he would "think about it", though he
expressed concern that the residents would simply sell the land and move back to Phnom Penh.

"If we give them the land they will take it to sell and come back again and again. If we give them the land we must find a way to lock them into the deal," he said.

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