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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Suy Sophan denies contract breach

Suy Sophan, president of Phan Imex, talks to the media
Suy Sophan, president of Phan Imex, talks to the media yesterday in Phnom Penh after answering questions from the National Assembly in regards to the ongoing land dispute at Borei Keila. Heng Chivoan

Suy Sophan denies contract breach

After years of avoiding questions about her company’s failure to complete the Borei Keila housing project, Phan Imex owner Suy Sophan yesterday denied any breach of contract during questioning at the National Assembly, a lawmaker said.

During more than two hours in front of members of the anti-corruption commission, Sophan fended off questions about the controversial social land concession project, which left hundreds homeless after a violent eviction in early 2012.

According to opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker and chairman of the commission Ho Vann, Sophan denied she had violated a 2003 contract to build 10 residential high-rises for 1,776 families at Borei Keila in exchange for the adjacent land on which they lived in the capital’s Prampi Makara district.

Suy Sophan fronts commission

Only eight buildings were ever finished, and dozens of families who refused alternative compensation – relocation out of the city – have been living in tents at the site of their former homes ever since.

“[Sophan] said she did not know about any irregularities, nor did she accept that she has violated the contract, just simply answered that there is still empty space in the eight buildings,” Vann said.

Speaking to journalists after the closed-door questioning, Sophan promised to still provide solutions for families who had documents to prove that they had been residents of Borei Keila before the relocation agreement was struck in 2003.

“Their demands are OK if they have the legal documents. If not, it’s a ‘no’,” she said.

Sophan declined to answer questions about contract violations or whether her company intended to build the remaining two buildings at Borei Keila. However, she claimed that a number of apartments sat empty at the site and could be filled by families entitled to them. Villagers, however, claim that corruption has resulted in people outside the community being given apartments.

The problem with demanding that the roughly 150 families still seeking compensation show documents, Vann said, is that many of them were likely destroyed when Phan Imex workers, backed by the authorities, violently evicted families and tore down their homes on January 3, 2012.

“I was there when they were demolishing the buildings. People would not have had the chance to collect any documents or valuables,” he said.

Vann said Phan Imex was still obligated to house families left out of the deal. He would remain in touch with Sophan to ensure that she acted to resolve the issue. If no solution came in the near future, he would send a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking for Phan Imex’s contract to be reviewed, he added.

Borei Keila villager representative Chhay Kimhorn said Sophan’s response to the matter yesterday had been unsympathetic to those the company had left homeless.

“We have no ownership documents that can be evaluated,” she said. “We will continue our campaign until there are suitable solutions for us.”

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