Five years after more than 300 families were violently evicted from the Borei Keila community, about 50 former residents yesterday attempted to occupy a dilapidated building at the site only to be thrown out once more by district security guards.
On January 3, 2012, private security guards along with military and district police stormed the community, tearing down 200 homes and forcing out 300 families to make way for a project being developed by construction firm Phanimex.
Phanimex had been contracted in 2004 to develop 10 buildings to house the 1,700 affected families at the site in return for developing the remaining 2.6 hectares. However, the firm only constructed eight buildings and claimed bankruptcy in 2010, leaving 300 families without their promised residences.
Yesterday, about 50 women and children, who now live on the city’s outskirts at the Phnom Bat relocation site, occupied the top floor of a decrepit building at Borei Keila demanding further compensation for being forcefully evicted – evictees say they only received between $100 and $1,000, and a 5-by-12-metre plot.
However, shortly after settling in the vacant few rooms, Prampi Makara district security guards asked them to leave the premises. When the villagers refused, guards started shoving and pushing the women, eventually dragging them out of the building.
“We did not harm them. We just asked to stay but they still dragged us out,” said former Borei Keila resident Ting Vicheka. “I was pushed and hit the wall, and my right hand is hurt.”
Kim Saran, another villager, said they pushed back only after security guards started shoving them, adding that she was slapped by one of the guard for “insulting them”.
“I said to them not to use violence like Pol Pot,” she said. “Then they got angry and insulted me in front of the others and slapped me.”
But, Prak Hak, a security guard, claimed the reverse. He said the guards had politely requested the villagers to move out, but instead they threw insults and fish sauce at the guards.
“She [one of the evictees] scratched me and threw fish sauce on me and the others. They did not listen to our instructions,” he said.
The evictees had come prepared with food and clothing yesterday, vowing to stay on the premises indefinitely. However, four villagers attended a meeting late in the afternoon with district governor Ly Sophea, who assured them that he would try to find a solution with City Hall within three days.
Community representative Khieu Lai said the villagers had proposed two options: $10,000 compensation and improved infrastructure at Phnom Bat, or $5,000 and a one-room house in Phnom Penh’s Prek Pnov district.
“Now, we are preparing to go back home, but we do not really trust what he promised,” said Lai. “If there is no solution in the next three days, we will come back and never leave here.”
Sophea did not respond to a request for comment. Phanimex’s owner, Suy Sophan, could not be reached yesterday.