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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Evictions case goes to court

Evictions case goes to court


Dan Poynton

LICADHO President Kek Galabru works the phones on August 29 in an attempt to help resolve the stand off involving the Municipality and members of the Dey Krahorm community. Long Srey Lek left, was handcuffed by police for refusing to leave her house.

Nearly 400 poor families facing eviction from the Dey Krahorm community in Tonle

Bassac ended their angry protests and took a different approach last week, heading

to court with complaints against the land developer.

A human rights NGO advising the community leaders expressed hope the eviction could

be halted.

But the advisor to the land developer claiming ownership to the land since 2005 said

the company expects City Hall to throw out the rest of the residents soon.

"We have removed 87 percent of the villagers," Srey Sothea, advisor for

the land developer 7NG, said Thursday.

"Now we're leaving City Hall to evict the rest because we have wasted a lot

of time negotiating with them already. They are continuing to protest to get more

money from the company," he said.

Sothea said that the company received a land title for Dey Krahorm from the Phnom

Penh municipality in 2005.

"Most of the villagers have agreed to move to the relocation site at Damnak

Trayeung commune in Dangkor district where the company has built flats for them,"

said Sothea.

The residents fought back in court September 1 with two complaints. One accused the

land developer of destruction and violence of property and violence in the eviction

process. They also refiled a complaint saying the land was granted to them as a "social

land concession" in July 2003 by Prime Minister Hun Sen and therefore the 2005

contract with 7NG was illegal.

A 2003 Council of Ministers document obtained by the Post states Hun Sen was setting

aside 3.7 hectares out of the total 4.7 hectares of Dey Krahorm land for residential


Kek Galabru president of Licadho, said the residents have a good case.

"Because Hun Sen gave them a land concession, the [Dey Krahorm] people are requesting

the governor and prime minister to give them the right to live there," Galabru

told the Post.

"We're not against the development," said Galabru. "But they should

make an on site apartment building for the people so they can keep their jobs, their

children can go to a good school, and they are close to a hospital." Galabru

cited the development at Borei Keila, which was to house similar villagers. Several

days of eviction protests that began August 29 saw children on the picket line screaming

"Stupid dogs!" at military police. The protests followed an August 16 order

from Phnom Penh municipal governor Kep Chuktema to remove "beds and tarpaulin

tents" placed "anarchically" on previously evicted sites in the community.

The worst of the confrontation occurred when about 100 police and military police,

and 100 demolition workers moved in to dismantle homes.

Long Srey Lek, 38-year-old mother of two young girls, rents a home in the community,

and was one of many who refused to be moved.

"The military police were very cruel," said Lek. "They destroyed everything

that we needed right in front of us - our mattress, our clothes, shoes and cooking

gear. They hit three or four people."

Police handcuffed her, but the residents prevented them from taking her away. "Now

we are sleeping on the ground where they destroyed our old home," said Lek.

"The people have a lot of solidarity now," said Galabru. "The villagers

made a kind of wall around her to stop the authorities. It gave me some hope. If

they stay together they can win - peacefully."

"The idea of Borei Keila is very good but the implementation is not so good,"

said Galabru. "There is corruption and some people who were entitled to an apartment

did not get one."

"The former leaders of the community conspired secretly to illegally sell the

land to 7NG," said Lor Seiha, a spokesman for the community. "There was

turmoil when the company came and asked us to leave. We insisted that 7NG develop

on site apartments for us or buy our land at market price."

"They don't help Khmers - they kill Khmers," said Seng Tea, a 28 year old

woman who was evicted August 29 but returned the next day to join the protest.

"I'm angry at the police because they didn't show us clearly where we are going

to," she said. "They've moved us to Dangkor district. There are thieves

and drug addicts, and there is flood water just about to come inside the house. There

is no school for my daughter." During the protests, speeches by Prime Minister

Hun Sen blared out on loudspeakers and many protestors wore CPP hats and shirts.

"The police and company have been provoking the crowd the whole time,"

said Cheng Davi, 29, a shop owner at Dey Krahorm. "They jeered at us strongly,

so we threw dirty water bombs back at them. They're like dogs."



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