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Tuol Kork fire victims rebuild

Tuol Kork fire victims rebuild

MORE than two-thirds of the homes destroyed by a March 8 fire in Tuol Kork district’s Boeung Kak 2 commune have been rebuilt, despite threats from district authorities that they will be destroyed if they do not conform to new size restrictions.

The fire, which authorities said was caused by an electrical short circuit in a resident’s home, destroyed about 178 homes as well as 31 dormitories at Neak Von pagoda, leaving 257 families, 181 students and 90 monks homeless.

After the blaze, officials intended to relocate the families to Dangkor district’s Choam Chao commune, where they were to receive 5-by-12-metre plots of land.

This plan was abandoned, however, when 67 families refused to vacate the area.

Last month, when reconstruction picked up after the June 11 termination of the relocation plan, deputy district governor Thim Sam An said he would not allow the site to turn into a new urban slum.

Rather, he said, families would be required to stick to 3.92-by-5.5-metre plots – a downgrade for many of the families – in order to leave room for access roads.

“We have banned those people again and again from making new homes without permission,” he said at the time.

Yesterday, he reiterated his earlier assertion that at least some of the rebuilt homes would eventually be destroyed.

“Currently, 124 out of the 178 homes have been rebuilt completely, but some of them will face demolition in the future if the government chooses to rebuild the railway area,” he said.

“They did not rebuild them according to the conditions that we determined, which we informed them of during several meetings.”

He added: “Tuol Kork district authorities set up the new land plots so we could build three more roads to ease the traffic and save them if they have fires in the future.”

Doung Sothea, a representative of the 67 families that originally refused to move, said some families had decided to rebuild before securing approval from officials because they were tired of waiting for new plots to be measured and new infrastructure to be installed.

“We have many lingering concerns, because authorities have not taken accountability for what they promised us,” he said.

Sia Phearum, secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said it was “a good thing” that residents were rebuilding their homes. He noted that their possessions would be exposed to the wet-season rains otherwise.

“Our monitors have found that people have tried to rebuild, and it’s a good thing,” he said. “It’s good for people with possessions, because they have the right to rebuild.”