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
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,"
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."