Residents of the capital’s Borei Keila neighbourhood met with district authorities yesterday in an attempt to resolve a long-lasting land dispute, but neither side appeared to soften their demands.
More than 40 families are under pressure to make room for a development by the company Phanimex, but those offered compensation are refusing to leave. They were given a two-week deadline, which expired Friday, to accept the offer or risk being forced out with nothing.
Speaking to The Post after the meeting with district authorities, community representative Sar Sorn said District Governor Lem Sophea had barely allowed them to speak and only reiterated that they had waived their right to compensation by not accepting it before the deadline last Friday.
The residents claim that the relocation site in Andong village, on the northwest outskirts of city, is too remote. Twenty more families were offered compensation last weekend – half monetary and half by relocation – but they too say they will not accept and demanded to be relocated within Borei Keila.
“I told him [Sophea] we did not waive our rights,” Sorn said.
Instead, she said they had asked to pass the case to Minister of Land Management Chea Sophara, who Sorn said had solved the dispute surrounding the White Building, which was torn down recently after all the residents accepted compensation packages.
According to Sorn, Sophea warned the 11 families originally offered compensation that they would be sued if they protested at the site and resisted the clearing of their homes.
Met Measpheakdey, Phnom Penh Municipal Hall spokesman, directed questions to Mean Chanyada, deputy governor of Phnom Penh and chairman of the Borei Keila community dispute resolution committee, who declined to comment.
Sophea and Phanimex representative Suy Sophan could not be reached yesterday.
Sok Srey On, a representative of the 30 families not originally offered compensation, said they would not leave the area.
“We asked for a solution for housing in Borei Keila – even on the ground floor – but did not accept . . . to be relocated to Andong village or be given only a small compensation.”
She added that Sophea did not specify the amount of compensation, but did say he would forward their request to City Hall for review.
Vann Sophath, a coordinator at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights who works with affected communities, said authorities don’t seem to be budging.
“This is a sign showing that the [municipality] still keeps their stance,” he said.
“An adequate solution is a solution that can be accepted by both parties: affected people and the authorities, without force and threat,” he said.
It was important, he said, to avoid a repeat of the “the 2012 experience”, when clashes erupted between military and local police and residents during forced evictions which left hundreds homeless.
Additional reporting by Leonie Kijewski