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Eviction site to become gym

7NG Group plans to build staff fitness centre in former Dey Krahorm community

LOCAL developer 7NG Group has begun construction of an employee fitness centre on the former site of the Dey Krahorm community in Chamkarmon district, a company official said Thursday.

Srey Chanthou, managing director of 7NG Group, said Thursday that company employees would soon have an exclusive gym where they could “play” in their free time.

“The building of the fitness centre will be complete next month, and all 7NG Group staff will be free to play different kinds of sports: football, tennis, volleyball, etc,” he said. “But we won’t allow other people to come in.”

He added that there was no clear development plan in place for the rest of the site.

On January 24 last year, police and construction workers employed by 7NG Group forcibly evicted Dey Krahorm’s remaining families and levelled their homes. Residents and housing rights groups say 144 families were still living at the site at the time of the eviction.

Naly Pilorge, executive director of the rights group Licadho, was taken aback by the news that 7NG was constructing a company fitness centre at the controversial site, which at one point housed around 400 families.

“7NG violently evicted more than 400 families ... to build an employee gym? How is this valuable development for the country?” she said.

“7NG acquired the Dey Krahorm land illegally, and to this day 7NG has not delivered what it promised, including compensation to [the] rightful owners of Dey Krahorm and basic infrastructure and services to Dey Krahorm people dumped in resettlement sites.”

She also questioned the “urgency” of evicting Dey Krahorm’s residents in 2009 given that, nearly a year and a half later, there is still no clear plan in place for the site’s development.

According to a billboard posted outside the 3.6-hectare construction site, 7NG eventually plans to build luxury apartments, as well as office and retail space, but Srey Chanthou said he could not confirm these plans.

“We don’t have a plan for what we will do with the rest of the land after we finish building the fitness centre. We don’t know what we will do in the future,” he said.

In January, he said development of the site would begin in 2011 and 2012, but could not give a definite start date.

Other rights activists said it was not surprising that 7NG still had not settled on a development plan. “It is never about development. It’s about grabbing land,” said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights.

“I don’t know how the employees of this company can happily enjoy a gym that is being built on the backbone of so many people’s suffering.”

Am Sam Ath, a senior monitor for rights group Licadho, said 7NG should use the money being spent on the fitness centre to “pay compensation to the people they evicted or build better houses for them”.

Te Channan, a lawyer for 13 families that are still seeking relocation housing from 7NG, said that their case is still in limbo after representatives from 7NG failed to appear in court for a May 24 hearing. “Now we are just waiting for the judge to set a new hearing date,” he said.

Nun Pheany, general director of administration at the Ministry of Land Management, said Thursday that the ministry had not yet received any applications for approval from 7NG to construct projects at the Dey Krahorm site. He added that any projects must be approved by the municipality.

Khat Narith, the chief of Tonle Bassac commune, where the site is located, said he, too, had not received any applications from 7NG.

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