Only 26 of the more than one hundred families that have refused to leave Phnom Penh’s Borei Keila community for squalid and remote relocation sites have been offered on-site houses by a working group formed to solve the long-standing dispute, City Hall announced yesterday.
Eighty-nine of the 154 families that have continued to protest for on-site housing since they were forcibly evicted in January 2012 are instead being offered newly built 4m by 5m houses at a relocation site in Por Senchey district’s Andong village.
Thirty-nine families, however, will not get any housing and instead receive unspecified other compensation.
The decision was widely greeted with dismay yesterday morning when posted at the Prampi Makara district office following a press conference at City Hall.
Mean Chanyada, director of administration at the Phnom Penh Municipality, said disappointed families would have until April 30 to appeal the decision, which was decided by a working group consisting of Phan Imex company representatives, some community members, NGOs and authorities.
He said they could submit further documents or put forward witnesses to have the working group re-assess their claims.
One of the criteria for those seeking on-site housing at Borei Keila was that residents had to be able to prove they had lived there for a significant period before 2003, when a 4.6-hectare site was awarded to Phan Imex by the government.
Phan Imex had been required under its contract with City Hall to build 10 buildings on two-hectares of the land to accommodate the more than 1,700 families that had to be moved for its development projects.
However, it built only eight of those buildings, accommodating almost 1,400 families but prompting protests from those left without homes.
Although the remaining families were offered residences at relocation sites in Kandal province after their forcible eviction, many refused to live there and have since been living in tents and the homes of family members at Borei Keila.
Leng Thourk, 51, told Post Weekend yesterday that she was disappointed after finding out her family had been offered a home in Andong village.
“I bought land in Borei Keila in 2000 and have the land transfer documents. I have a savings account book, a ‘poor community’ book and a resident book. Why am I not eligible to get a house at Borei Keila?”
City Hall has appealed to villagers to continue to work with the committee and not launch street protests.
“Walking on the streets and protesting is not the way to find a solution,” Chanyada said.
Chhay Kimhorn, a Borei Keila community representative who sits on the working group, received an on-site house but said she would still back disappointed villagers if they wanted to protest.
She added that although infrastructure at the Andong relocation site was acceptable, the houses were too small and “looked like a garment worker’s rental room”.
Housing Rights Task Force director Sia Phearum said it had been difficult for the working group to provide more on-site houses due to a general lack of appropriate documents from claimants.