PHNOM Penh Governor Kep Chuktema on Wednesday presided over a ceremony marking the opening of onsite relocation housing in Prampi Makara district’s Borei Keila community, but more than 120 families slated to move in say rooms in the building are too small and have refused to register for them.
The new building, designed to house 174 families, is part of a redevelopment project funded by the private developer Phanimex.
City Hall has promised free housing to families that are being relocated to the building in exchange for the valuable inner-city land they currently occupy. Phanimex has been promised a portion of that land in exchange for constructing the relocation housing.
Nuth Sokly, a representative of the 124 families who have declined to relocate, said they were upset that the new housing was significantly smaller than their current homes, and claimed it lacked electricity and water.
“Our request is that the houses are 4 metres by 12 metres, not 3.8 metres by 9 metres,” he said. He said that authorities had asked each family to provide photos by Monday in order to register for relocation housing, but that they had refused to do so.
“District officials informed us to give them photos by April 5 so that we can receive homes, or they will not be responsible for any damage caused to our home” as a result of further development,” he said. “It means they’ve threatened to evict us and move us to our new homes without proper compensation.”
He said families have been living in their current homes in Borei Keila since 1979, meaning they legally qualify for ownership rights. He demanded that officials pay US$20,000 to each family.
Am Sam Ath, monitoring supervisor for the rights group Licadho, said that many evictions have been made “without adequate compensation and have not been resolved in a peaceful way”, referring in particular to the January 2009 demolition of the Dey Krahorm community.
“In some areas, people have lived more than 20 years, and the government should give sufficient compensation to people where there is development on state land,” he said.
However, Kep Chuktema said that City Hall had been proactive in initiating discussions with people facing relocation, adding that the offer of new homes right before Khmer New Year was a stroke of “good luck”.
“I have never evicted people without compensation before,” he said. “If there is no choice, you have to relocate to new places because you have lived on state land or private land.”
Suy Sophan, the director of Phanimex, said at Wednesday’s ceremony that residents should react positively to the relocation plan, which he said would facilitate the beautification of the city.
“You used to live in a slum area, but now you will move to great new apartments,” he said.