One of eight residents detained following their arrest during a violent eviction at Phnom Penh’s Borei Keila community on Tuesday has been charged with intentional violence and obstructing public officials, the residents’ lawyer said, while some families whose homes were demolished were moved to resettlement areas.
On Tuesday, more than 100 police, military police, guards and workers hired by developer Phan Imex demolished some 200 homes in the Borei Keila community. During the clash, police fired tear gas at residents, who threw bricks, branches, logs and bottles at them. At least 10 people – including villagers and officials – sustained injuries.
A municipal official told the Post on Tuesday that 30 officials had been injured.
Chin Lida, a lawyer from rights group Licadho representing eight residents detained following the protest, told the Post that one resident had been charged and lawyer Suong Sophal had filed a complaint against villagers to the municipal court on behalf of Phnom Penh Municipality.
“I requested the court and prosecutor to release my clients,” he said, adding that all villagers remained in custody at the municipal police station.
Kiet Chhe, deputy municipal administration chief, declined to comment yesterday, while deputy municipal police chief Phoung Malay could not be reached. Suong Sophal also declined to comment.
Phan Imex signed a contract with the government in 2003, agreeing to construct 10 buildings on two hectares of land to house 1,776 families in the community, in exchange for development rights to 2.6 hectares. The company has constructed only eight of the buildings, leaving almost 400 families in limbo.
In June, the Post obtained a letter penned by Phan Imex owner Suy Sophan to Prime Minister Hun Sen in 2010, requesting permission to forego construction of the two buildings and asking that the firm be granted the remaining land.
Suy Sophan could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The exact number of families moved to two resettlement areas in the wake of the eviction yesterday – one in Tuol Sambo in Phnom Penh and the other in Phnom Bat in Oudong district across Kandal and Kampong Speu provinces – remains unclear.
Phan Imex representative Phon Moy said yesterday that each family that moved to Phnom Bat would receive between 500,000 riel (US$124 ) to 1 million riel ($248) and a 5m x 12m plot of land, and families that moved to Tuol Sambo would receive the same amount of money and a house 3.5m x 5.5m in dimensions.
Phon Moy said that the firm would also provide each family with 50 kilograms of rice.
However, at Tuol Sambo village, 34-year-old resident Noun Phon told the Post that, so far, about 20 families had been sent to the village and that the company had given her family $100 and 30 kilograms of rice.
“They do not have houses to give us to live in, they told us to make the tent to live in temporarily,” she said.
After arriving at Tuol Sambo, 45-year-old Khan Samoeun said that she was unsure whether she would receive land from the company in Tuol Sambo, where evictees were now living in tents.
“The company has yet to build homes for villagers, and told us to wait,” she said.
“When we left Borei Keila, the company gave us 400,000 riel ($99) and 20 kilograms of rice, with promises that they would give us a house, but there is no formal document,” Khan Samoeun added. “That is why we are afraid that the company will leave us here to live in the air.”
Tuol Sambo village chief Khum Khoeun said he was unsure how many families would be relocated to the village, but so far, 36 families had arrived.
“The company has told me that they will build new houses at 14 different plots of land,” he said.
SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua, who was attempting to facilitate negotiations between Phan Imex and the families, visited the site yesterday morning and later joined about 50 residents who gathered outside the United States embassy in the evening to seek assistance.
Mu Sochua said later that the residents had returned to Borei Keila, but would return to the US embassy today.
Civil society groups have also condemned the use of violence during the eviction, and called on the company to honour the contract.