Five people among the 14 holdout families from the capital’s Borei Keila neighbourhood were taken in for questioning on Sunday for resisting eviction when the authorities attempted to demolish the building in which they were residing.
The holdouts were among hundreds of families who were evicted in January 2012 to make way for a large-scale construction project overseen by Phanimex, a development company owned by prominent tycoon Suy Sophan.
While the rest have since either accepted on-site housing compensation or relocated to the outskirts with cash, the families who had held out rejected the last offer from the municipal hall.
Borei Keila resident Ngov Nary, who claimed she had not received fair compensation from the company, said on Friday that around 10 people not only removed their belongings but also threatened to detain and send them to a welfare centre.
She said the authorities then took five people to the Prampi Makara district hall for questioning. She identified the five as Loem Pheng, 30; Srey Touch, 50; Nuon Setha, 31; Nuon Socheata, 29, and Reth Rim, 40. Nary quoted them as telling the authorities during the two hours’ questioning that they would not leave without a compromise.
“We’d rather die here if there is no acceptable solution because we don’t have any other places to live.
“The authorities agreed to pay us only three or four thousands dollar in compensation, which is not enough to buy a house or land for a living. Plus, I have a lot of children so I cannot accept this compensation,” said Nary.
Rin Rim, the families’ representative, said the municipal authorities had deployed two bulldozers and put around 30 members of the security forces on standby pending an order to demolish their home.
“We want compensation of between $30,000 and $400,000. Besides the 14 families, five other families who have already accepted compensation also came to help us prevent the bulldozers from demolishing our home.
“They are sympathetic because they too received very little compensation,” she said.
Rim said Phanimex had sold the Borei Keila land to two Chinese- and Taiwanese-owned companies which she said were laying the foundation for the construction of a large building behind the old Borei Keila community.
Prampi Makara district governor Lim Sophea declined to comment on Sunday.
District police chief Neth Sithon acknowledged to The Post on Sunday that his officers had briefly detained the five for questioning.
“But I didn’t question them, I was [busy] maintaining security,” he said.
Phnom Penh Municipal Hall spokesman Met Meas Pheakdey could not be reached for comment on Sunday.
Rights group Licadho senior investigator Am Sam Ath called on the authorities to seek a compromise instead of intimidating the holdouts.
“I hope all relevant parties will resolve the matter. All stakeholders need to solve this land dispute peacefully without resorting to violence,” he said.