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Progress slow at eviction site

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Workers dismantle the Dey Krahorm community in a violent forced eviction last January. The company 7NG has been granted development rights for the site.

Billboard outlines plans for luxury apartments and office and retail space, but scene of community’s eviction is currently home to only a sales office.

THE developer 7NG Group said Monday that the main phase of its project on the site of the former Dey Krahorm community in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district would not begin until at least 2011, sparking renewed accusations that last year’s controversial eviction of the community was executed for speculative rather than development purposes.

“All projects will start in 2011 and 2012, though I cannot fix a clear date,” Srey Chanthou, managing director of 7NG Group, said Monday.

The company has plans to build luxury apartments as well as office and retail space, according to a billboard recently posted outside the construction site. At the moment, the 3.6 hectares of land are undeveloped except for a new 7NG sales office.

7NG is currently evaluating the cost of the projects, Srey Chanthou said, adding that it hopes to attract capital from companies in Vietnam, South Korea and Belgium.

Lao Tip Seiha, director of the Department of Construction at the Ministry of Land Management, said Monday that his ministry had not yet received applications for approval from 7NG to construct the proposed projects at the Dey Krahorm site, adding that the company will also need to seek approval from local officials.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun said Monday that City Hall also had yet to receive any information, and Tonle Bassac commune chief Khat Narith said he had only received the application for 7NG’s sales office.

7NG gained access to the Dey Krahorm site in January of last year after about 400 families were violently evicted from their homes, which were then demolished by 7NG contract workers. In the aftermath of the eviction, the UN referred to the event as a “grave breach” of human rights.

“It is regrettable that the ongoing negotiations with the residents were abandoned, casting aside a valuable opportunity to reach a just and lawful solution to this long-standing dispute,” Raquel Rolnik, the UN’s special rapporteur for adequate housing, said in a statement at the time.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said Monday that the public is seeing little benefit from the land concession as 7NG sits on it.

“Next time, the government has to look carefully before they give any project to the investor,” he said.

Cambodian Centre for Human Rights President Ou Virak said it was obvious at the time of the eviction that 7NG had no specific development projects in the offing, and was instead planning to hold the land for speculation. He said the company was likely waiting to take advantage of more favorable property values.

“Right now, for example, if they built flats, I’m not sure they could make money,” Ou Virak said, adding that even if 7NG did have a specific plan in mind last year, the underlying injustice of the eviction would be unchanged.

“It has nothing to do with whether they have a plan or not; it has to do with whether the people that live there have the right” to occupy the land, he said.

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