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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Group 34 residents begin to rebuild, defying governor

Group 34 residents begin to rebuild, defying governor

RESIDENTS of Chamkarmon district’s Group 34 community have begun rebuilding homes destroyed by a fire more than a year ago, after receiving no response from the local authorities about a request concerning replacement land on the city’s outskirts.

Community representative Toch Sophan said villagers began building homes earlier this month in order to have shelter during this year’s rainy season.

A suspected arson on April 15 last year destroyed 150 homes and killed a 4-year-old girl in Group 34, a community in Tomnup Toek commune. After the blaze, authorities brokered a deal whereby residents could pay US$100 for replacement land in Dangkor district.

But Horm Noeun, a resident of the community, said villagers don’t trust the local authorities, who have seemingly ignored requests that they be allowed to settle the new land before handing over the $100 payments.

“Now villagers have stopped giving the money to their representatives because they are demanding that they get the land first,” he said.

Toch Sophan said he has received over 10 million riels (US$2,386) in money from villagers, but that there has been no response from the commune chief and municipal authorities as to when they can settle the new land.

“Villagers are waiting for the authorities to relocate them, and agree to give US$100 to [them] when they relocate them to the new site,” he said.
“The government has not allowed us to rebuild the homes, but villagers have no choice. They can’t live under the rain.”

Chor Pheng, the chief of Tomnup Toek commune, said he had already received some money from the villagers, but that authorities need around $200,000 more to purchase 1.5 hectares of replacement land in Dangkor district for 288 families from Group 34.

“We have only $40,000 from generous people. We need more money,” he said. He added that constructing new buildings on the current land was forbidden, and that the villagers “have to relocate to the new site”.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun declined to comment on the case beyond saying that the villagers need to “save money and reduce their gambling” if they want to receive land. He referred further questions to Chamkarmon district governor Lo Yuy, who could not be reached Sunday.

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