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Rebuild after fire to be limited

Anger rises as city refuses to allow reconstruction of homes at their original size

TUOL Kork district officials said Monday that 257 families made homeless by a March 8 fire will be restricted to rebuilding 178 houses – each measuring only 3.92-by-5.5-metres – at the site of the blaze, setting the stage for a showdown with villagers who continue to demand houses equivalent in size to those they lost.

“We will allow the fire victims to make 178 homes, not 257 homes, because the fire destroyed only 178 homes even though it actually made 257 families homeless,” said Tuol Kork district Deputy Governor Thim Sam An.

He added there is still no concrete timeline for the redistribution of plots at the site in Boeung Kak 2 commune.

“Before we begin taking measurements or distributing land to the families, they must all agree to accept our size regulations,” he said.

Until Friday, local officials had promised to relocate 170 families to 5-by-12-metre plots of land in Dangkor district’s Choam Chao commune. Meanwhile, 67 families that refused to relocate were told they could rebuild in Boeung Kak 2 commune provided that they accept reduced 3.92-by-5.5-metre plots of land.

Phan Vannara, deputy chief of Tuol Kork district’s Office of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, said that the 178 homes would have to be rebuilt on just 5,000 square metres of land because the community would be pushed back 10 metres from the railroad tracks and 3 metres from Wat Neak Von. The new dimensions also make allowances for three 3-metre-wide access roads, he said.

Tired of waiting
About 25 families have already rebuilt replacement homes at the site of the fire, several of which are larger than the size mandated by authorities.

After living in temporary shelters for three months, many of the 170 families that originally opted for relocation now say that they will soon begin rebuilding homes on their old land even if the authorities do not give them permission.

Kith Vannak, a resident who previously had been slated for relocation, said that before the fire he lived in a 13-by-14-metre house with 11 other people. “We need to make a home the same size if they cannot relocate us,” he said.

“We waited for three months in a temporary shelter with a flimsy roof, but now the authorities have cancelled the relocation and ordered us to rebuild homes of just 3.92-by-5.5-metres, and they won’t even provide us with land titles.… We cannot accept this,” he said.

Buth Sarith, another resident, also said he would soon start rebuilding despite restrictions from authorities.

“Soon I will just build a home on my old site because I cannot wait for the authorities to find the time to come and measure the land.… That could take months,” he said.

Lon Nagha, a community representative, added that many families still want to relocate to the site in Dangkor district.

“The authorities should not eat their words. We are collecting thumbprints from the families that want to relocate so that we can ask for intervention from Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema,” he said.

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