Talks focus on newly installed fence, compensation options.
The head of Canadia Bank, Pung Kheav Se, speaks to protesters from the Rik Reay community outside the bank's Phnom Penh headquarters on Tuesday morning. The community has refused to accept compensation for the loss of their city-centre land to a housing development project.
MORE than 60 Rik Reay community residents and 30 students from Russey Keo High School staged a demonstration outside Canadia Bank's Phnom Penh headquarters Tuesday, drawing the bank's head into a sometimes tense streetside meeting with villagers claiming they were unfairly losing their homes.
The demonstrators gathered at the headquarters at 9:30am, some holding signs that stated, "Canadia Bank and Bassac Garden City have robbed the Rik Reay community of its land".
The students were there in support of their teacher, Pen Thay, a resident representative and member of one of 54 families who have yet to leave the site so that high-end residential villas can be built on it.
A government directive dated January 30 instructed the community's 219 families to vacate the site and offered them one of two compensation options: US$10,000 and a house in Dangkor district, or onsite housing, in which Bassac Garden City, the company developing the site, vowed to invest between $5 million and $6 million.
Shortly after the demonstrators gathered, Pung Kheav Se, the Canadia head who is also chief executive officer of the Overseas Cambodian Investment Corporation, appeared and told the students to go home. "Why are you here?" he asked.
"Don't waste your time. Go back to study. Let me negotiate with your teacher and the residents," Pung Khean Se said.
The remaining residents of Rik Reay community turn out in force Tuesday to confront Pung Kheav Se, the head of Canadia Bank, over the
ongoing work on the land they call home.
At the meeting
He then met with the residents, led by Pen Thay and Chan Bunthol, who is also a resident representative and teaches at Phnom Penh's Preah Sisowath High School.
Pen Thay said the meeting focused in part on Bassac Garden City's decision to install a fence on Saturday night behind some of the residents' homes.
"The owner said he would take the fence down after no more than one week if it was impacting the residents," Pen Thay said, referring to Pung Kheav Se.
Kong Sareth, a 50-year-old Rik Reay resident, said the installation of the fence had reduced the length of his plot of land from 62 metres to 12 metres. "I will stay here until I meet the owner," he said before Pung Kheav Se appeared, "because I don't know what I would do if I went back home."
Pen Thay said compensation was also discussed at the meeting.
"Some of the residents asked for compensation of $30,000," he said.
He noted that 12 of the 54 families asked to develop buildings on the site themselves, a request that Pung Kheav Se reportedly said he could not accommodate because there were not enough families who wanted to participate in the scheme.
"[Pung Kheav Se] said we would need 20 to 30 families to [justify onsite development of alternative housing]," Pen Thay said.
Pung Kheav Se told the crowd that Canadia, which provided a loan to Bassac Garden City to fund the development, "had never done anything illegal" in facilitating the development of the centrally located site.
"I want to have a balanced negotiation, so residents should come to speak directly to me," he said. "I will find justice for all of you."