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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Firm fails to build housing

Firm fails to build housing

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Two apartment blocks constructed by the Phanimex company in the Borei Keila community in central Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district.

Local property developer Phanimex has reneged on an agreement to construct apartment blocks for residents displaced by its development project in the capital’s Borei Keila community.

In a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen dated April 26, 2010 and obtained by The Post on Wednesday, Phanimex owner Suy Sophan said construction of the relocation housing would be more expensive than originally foreseen in the firm’s project agreement with the government.

In 2003, Phanimex agreed to construct 10 buildings on two hectares of land to house more than 1,700 families living in Borei Keila in exchange for the development rights on 2.6 hectares of land previously occupied by local residents. Construction on the buildings began in 2004, but Phanimex has to date completed only eight of the 10 buildings originally planned to house displaced residents.

In lieu of constructing the remaining two buildings, Suy Sophan requested that Phanimex be given control of the land on which the buildings were to be constructed.

“Our company has built eight buildings [that] cost US$10,766,892, which is higher than the contract [with the government] of $3,632,991,” the letter said. “The actual need is only eight buildings for 1,392 families.”

“To recoup the loss [of money], I ask permission from Samdech [Hun Sen] to build only eight buildings instead, and the company requests ownership of the 4,300 square metres where Building 9 and Building 10 were planned to be constructed before.”

Residents of the community say, however, that hundreds will be denied housing if Phanimex refuses to follow through on its agreement.

About 30 people from Borei Keila protested outside the premier’s house in Takhmao town on Wednesday, seeking intervention after Phanimex failed to complete the last two buildings.

“If the company builds only eight buildings, there will not be enough housing for all villagers,” protestor Phoung Sopheap said. “If Buildings 9 and 10 are not built, 384 families will be homeless. This does not reduce poverty and it is contrary to the purpose of the government.”

54-year-old Sar Son, another Borei Keila resident who joined the protest, claimed on Wednesday that local authorities were engaging in “corruption”.

“If anyone wants to live in one of the [existing] buildings, they have to pay between $2,000 and $3,000 to bribe the local authorities,” she said. Protestors also claimed that relatives of local officials who had not previously lived in Borei Keila have been granted new housing in the buildings.

Suy Sophan states in the letter that Phanimex plans to provide 20 hectares of land in Kandal province for residents to plant crops and another half-hectare in an unspecified area of Phnom Penh for people who had formally rented homes or lived temporarily at Borei Keila.

Sok Ath, chief officer of the Prampi Makara district development programme, said on Wednesday that he had not received any official document regarding a change in the number of buildings at Borei Keila.

Veal Vong commune chief Keo Sakal said that residents should reveal the names of those whom they accuse of extorting them in exchange for the promised apartments.

“The people should point out the people who [they say] committed corruption so that they can be prosecuted,” she said.

She added that people must have proper documentation in order to receive the new housing at Borei Keila.

Representatives from Phanimex could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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