FAMILIES who lost their homes when a fire tore through their Tuol Kork district community last week say they are still considering offers to move to new land or to stay and rebuild on lots that are too small for their needs.
Authorities say the 178 families from the capital’s Boeung Kak 2 commune whose homes were destroyed in the March 8 fire will be allowed to rebuild, but only on uniformly small plots measuring 3.92 metres by 5.5 metres.
“All 178 families can have equally sized land, even big and small families,” said commune chief Van Sareth.
The flames tore through a hectare of land near Neak Von pagoda in a blaze that officials said started when an electrical fire spread from a wooden home. Tuol Kork district authorities say the families can rebuild, but wider access roads must be accommodated and homes must be constructed at least 10 metres back from a railway that runs through the community.
Chhin Sophal, a representative of the affected residents, said that not all the villagers have agreed on what to do. Some are worried the new master plan for the area, shown to the villagers this week, rendered their properties smaller than before the blaze.
“The majority of people want to stay and live here,” Chhin Sophal said. “But some houses who have big families want to split their family to stay here and live at the new site as well. They want more land.”
Villager Ket Seang Hai said she did not like the way authorities have divided the land, questioning that her family of seven people would be able to squeeze onto the realigned lots after previously enjoying a relatively spacious plot measuring nearly twice the size.
She said she is considering offers to move to relocation sites, including one in Sen Sok district and one in Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district.
The options have stirred vigorous debate among the families, she said, with some villagers split over whether to rebuild near the railway tracks or move to a better location.
“Right now, we do not know when to start building our house or even which plot of land belongs to us,” she said.
In the meantime, representatives from the private sector moved to help those in need. On Sunday, Toll Royal Railway, which is to rebuild Cambodia’s rail network, donated US$500 worth of rice and noodles to affected families.