A GROUP of 44 HIV/AIDS-affected families that were evicted from their homes in Phnom Penh’s Borei Keila community in June 2009 and forced to live in green metal sheds in Dangkor district received replacement housing yesterday.
Rights groups had long bemoaned conditions at the Tuol Sambo relocation site, which is about 20 kilometres from the capital, complaining in particular about poor infrastructure and the “oppressively hot” 3.5-by-4.5-metre green metal sheds the families were forced to occupy.
Suon Saren, 30, said yesterday that she was pleased to move to one of the new 4-by-7-metre concrete homes provided by the NGO Caritas Cambodia.
“When I first arrived at Tuol Sambo and was forced to live in that green metal house I could not sleep at night, and it affected my heath, but now that I have received a new house I think I will get better,” she said.
“The high temperatures in the metal sheds used to damage our medicine, but with the new houses we hope this won’t be a problem,” she added.
Mann Chhoeun, former deputy governor of Phnom Penh, said yesterday that despite the wave of criticism triggered by the eviction, the government remained committed to helping affected families establish and support themselves.
“We will manage this village and provide the people with a vocational centre, which will in turn provide them with jobs sewing clothing, producing soap and growing flowers,” he said. “And we will construct a small market where they can run a business, and also allow them to sell their products at the night market near Phsar Chas.”
Kim Ratana, director of Caritas Cambodia, said his group would continue to support livelihood development at the site. “We will help them operate small businesses such as bottling water, producing soap and making other products by hand so they can enhance their standard of living and develop Tuol Sambo into a small industry area,” he said.
Suy Sophan, director of Phanimex, the private company developing the Borei Keila site, said the families were lucky to receive the new homes.
“Even though their parents could not provide them with a house the government has provided them with land and a house,” he said.
Meanwhile, Manfred Hornung, a legal adviser for the rights group Licadho, said six other HIV/AIDS-affected families that were promised replacement housing in Borei Keila by Phanimex after being evicted from their homes there were still “living in very bad conditions”.
“The granting of these apartments has actually been postponed since June 2009,” he said, and called any further delays a “direct threat to their livelihoods and future in general”.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY WILL BAXTER