Almost 20 Borei Keila families have decided to accept compensation in one of the country’s most prominent and longstanding land disputes.
The dispute originated in 2004 when residents in Borei Keila were asked to move from their homes to make space for a project undertaken by the developer Phanimex. At the time, the company had agreed to build 10 new buildings on site to relocate displaced residents, but only followed through with eight. This left hundreds of families effectively homeless when their houses were destroyed in 2012.
Most of the families have since accepted compensation or relocated, but some families claim the relocation site, in Andong village on the outskirts of the city, is too remote and the compensation offered too low.
One group of 11 families was given a deadline of December 22 to either accept compensation or leave empty-handed. Another 30 families of holdouts were previously determined as ineligible for compensation, though 20 of those families were offered payouts or homes in Andong near the end of December.
A representative of the 30 families, Sok Srey On, yesterday said her family and 15 others begrudgingly accepted compensation on Sunday because they lacked money and a permanent place to stay.
Kung Vireak, another resident who accepted compensation, said that he neither knew how much money he would receive nor when they would have to move out of the dilapidated building in Borei Keila where many of the holdouts are currently squatting. “I’m just waiting for City Hall to call us in to clarify,” he said.
Ngov Nary, a representative of 11 families, said she had learned from the municipality on Tuesday that the family of resident Ouk Somaly, whom she had represented, had quietly accepted compensation, but she did not know how much. Contact information for Somaly could not be obtained yesterday.
Vann Sophath, a coordinator at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights who has worked with Borei Keila residents, said it remained unclear whether Somaly had accepted monetary compensation or relocation to Andong as the agreement was “secretly done” between her and the municipality.
Among the 30 families, he said, three had accepted homes in Andong plus $2,000 each between last Wednesday and Tuesday, while 13 families had accepted $5,000 per family with no relocation. “However, there are some
of the remaining families among the 30 families that are in negotiations with the authority,” he said.
Previously, the municipality had offered 10 of the 30 families relocation in Andong, and 10 monetary compensation of $3,000.
Sophath added that some families had already moved out. “[But] some of them, like Sok Srey On and some other families, just signed the agreement with authority,” he said. “They did not get the money yet.”
Naly Pilorge, deputy advocacy director at the rights organisation Licadho, said every family had to make their own choice. “It’s up to individual families to accept or not so-called ‘compensation’ as they will have to live with their individual decisions,” she said.
Meanwhile, Ngov Nary and three other residents protested in front of Phanimex owner Suy Sophan’s house yesterday to demand between $20,000 and $25,000 for each family instead of the $15,000 in compensation that was offered to them on Monday.
Sophan could not be reached yesterday, but has previously rejected responsibility.
Met Measpheakdey, municipal spokesman, said that City Hall had not changed its offer since Monday. “We do not have any amendments or additions for them, and we are still waiting for their approval,” he said.