Borei Keila evictees, waiting for the arrival of UN Special Rapporteur Surya Subedi, cheered as children tore down signs advertising a motorcycle business on the very land development firm Phan Imex promised to house them.
When Subedi’s UN convoy arrived about 30 minutes later, he was mobbed by vocal residents as he was led on a tour of Borei Keila – past tents, over piles of rubbish and through swarms of flies.
“I am concerned for your situation,” he told the crowd. “It doesn’t seem to be only a human-rights matter, but also a humanitarian matter.
“The conditions in which you have been forced to live don’t seem to be adequate for the 21st century.”
Villagers have lived under staircases and near piles of rubbish since Phan Imex, backed by the Phnom Penh Municipal authority, demolished their homes on January 3.
Others accepted relocation to squalid conditions on the outskirts of the capital and in Kandal province.
“I have made my representation at a very high level of the government and assure you that I will continue to do so,” Subedi said.
When asked what he had talked to the government about, Subedi did not say.
“I have intervened in the past and I will do so again after I have studied the petitions very carefully,” he said.
Two buildings, one a warehouse, have being constructed this year where Phan Imex was to build the remaining two residential high-rises.
Cheang Sreychorn, a 33-year-old villager, said residents were angry to see signs advertising a new motorcycle business on the warehouse.
“We will not allow the company to do as it wants,” she said as villagers carried kitchenware and bedding into the “Borei Keila Motorcycle Store”, shortly before its signs were ripped down.
Ee Sarom, program co-ordinator of the NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, said he hoped Subedi would act on his word.
“We hope [he] will raise this issue with the government and push for an urgent solution aimed at reducing this poverty,” he said.
Phan Imex owner Suy Sophan could not be reached for comment yesterday.