Three years after their houses were demolished in a midnight eviction, former Dey Krahorm residents say they have no food and are living in tents in their relocation village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
In a show of solidarity, Borei Keila and Boeung Kak evictees joined about 300 former Dey Krahorm residents yesterday to mark the anniversary of the eviction at the site where their houses once stood.
Evictees took off their shoes and placed them together to spell “development”, before marching a 50-metre long protest banner to the National Assembly.
As emotional pleas streamed from megaphones and portable speakers, the group lodged a petition urging the government to stop all evictions and protect the rights of its citizens.
About 800 families were forced from the 3.7-hectare Dey Krahorm site, in Chamkarmon district’s Tonle Bassac commune, in 2009.
“We live under broken blue tents, we don’t have food, and we don’t have medicine when we are sick,” a media release from the evictees issued yesterday reads.“Our children cannot go to school – they have become scavengers of plastic and collect remnant rice from the fields.”
Evictees say the government approved a social land concession in 2003 that was to involve them giving up part of their land in exchange for new houses, but had later decided to give real estate company 7NG all of the land and relocate the residents to Damnak Trayoeng village about 20 kilometres away.
Former resident Chan Vichet said life in the new village was causing problems for many evictees.“Every year on this day, we are crying when we remember how we were evicted,” he said. “The major problems are food and career – many of us lost our livelihood when we were moved from here.”
An evictee who did not want to be named said the former Dey Krahorm residents appreciated the support of evictees from Borei Keila and Boeung Kak. “You can see that many people from different villages are here. People are learning that eviction is not the individual’s problem, it is everyone’s. That’s why we say, ‘today it’s their house, tomorrow it could be mine’.”
Sia Phearum, Director of Cambodian Housing Rights Task Force, said his research showed that about 18 per cent of Dey Krahorm residents had been unemployed before the eviction and the figure had since risen to about 35 per cent.
Five NGOS – Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Witness, FIDH and Forum-Asia – sent a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday condemning the treatment of Borei Keila residents, especially those detained in Prey Spey social affairs centre earlier this month.
“It’s clear that one of the most dangerous places for an ordinary Cambodian to be is living on a piece of land that a rich man and his government cronies want,” Phil Robertson, the deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, said yesterday.
Ek Tha, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said the government had tried to help villagers by making Cambodia attractive to investors.
“The government has no policy to make villagers poor, but they make a policy to make villagers get richer,” he said.