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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Fire families flout city’s ban

Fire families flout city’s ban

Residents who lost homes in a March blaze begin rebuilding in the face of inaction

A GROUP of families made homeless by a March 8 fire in Tuol Kork district have begun rebuilding houses that are larger than those approved by city authorities, a move that residents say was prompted by growing frustration with the fact that replacement plots have yet to be demarcated.

More than three months after the fire, temporary structures still line the railway tracks in Boeung Kak 2 commune, but about 30 wood-and-brick homes are now also in various stages of construction.

Until recently, 170 families from the site had been slated for relocation to 5-by-12-metre plots in Dangkor district’s Choam Chao commune. On June 11, however, district officials axed the relocation plan because 67 other families refused to vacate the area.

All of the families have been asked to build replacement homes on 3.92-by-5.5 metre plots, a size smaller than those occupied by many before the fire.

Seang Hai, a representative of the 170 families that sought to relocate, said Tuesday that she and members of seven other families had decided to build a brick home with a metal roof on their original 13-by-14-metre plot of land.

“When the authorities decided to cancel the relocation, we decided we could not endure living in a temporary shelter under a ruined tent roof any longer,” she said.

Chan Heng, a relative of Seang Hai, said, “We told the authorities from the start that if they could not relocate us, we would rebuild our home on the old site.”

Anarchic development?
Some residents, like Phal Phornareth, lack the necessary funds to rebuild. “I want to make a new home, but we don’t have enough money,” she said, and added that she worried about disease because of recent heavy rainfall, mosquitoes and the raw sewage that is flowing into the area.

Others have expressed concern that the authorities will use the construction of unauthorised dwellings as an excuse to raze and evict the entire community.

“We need to live here, but we need the authorities to set things up. We need them to measure the land so it can be distributed to us soon in order to avoid making a slum in this area,” said Duong Sothea, a representative of the 67 families that resisted relocation.

Nov Phala, 68, said it was unfair that the authorities had not reprimanded the families building permanent homes.

“Some families are making brick homes, but the authorities are ignoring them. But before, when my family and others wanted to rebuild homes, the authorities banned us and threatened to confiscate our building materials and pull down our homes,” she said.

Tuol Kork deputy district governor Thim Sam An said Tuesday that he would not allow the former fire site to turn into a new urban slum.

“We have banned those people again and again from making new homes without permission; we have showed them our plans to build new roads in the area, and we have told them they will eventually get 3.92-by-5.5 metre plots,” he said.

“We cannot allow those families to make a slum at the fire site, because we are concerned that their homes will just be burned up in another accident.”

He added that he will hold a meeting later this week with the residents to discuss a timeframe for the measurement and distribution of the official land plots.

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