Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Evictees at Andong relocation site call for help from govt, NGOs

Evictees at Andong relocation site call for help from govt, NGOs

Evictees at Andong relocation site call for help from govt, NGOs

Families say they are stranded in appalling conditions, and isolation

from work and social services is forcing them to 'live like animals'

FORCED EVICTION

In June 2006, nearly 1,400 families were made to leave the Sambok Chab slum on the Bassac river in one of the largest single evictions in recent years. Municipal trucks dumped them off at an open field in Andong, where a new "village" was established.

SOME 250 families at the Andong relocation site outside Phnom Penh are asking NGOs, donors and the government for immediate relief from living conditions that they say have become intolerable.

"My first need is food because I have nothing to eat," said 45-year-old Kong Savy, tears welling in her eyes.

"We need help because we are living like animals without any care from our government," she told the Post.

Those raising these most recent complaints about life in the relocation site represent the poorest of nearly 1,400 families who were violently evicted from the Sambok Chab slum in Phnom Penh in June 2006.

They were moved to land some 22 kilometres outside the capital with no sewage or waste collection, and poor access to health services and job opportunities.

We need help because we are living like animals without any care.

Chhan Sokhen, assistant to the head of the opposition Khmer Loves Khmer Party, said the government's development plans for Phnom Penh were overlooking the rights of the urban poor.

"It's not real development. It's filled with corruption and selfishness, and there's no thought to the suffering of people," he said.  

He said his party would support the families with rice donations until other groups came to help.

Theng Sothol, deputy governor of Dongkor district, in which the Andong relocation site lies, denied claims that authorities there were negligent.

"We've never abandoned the villagers. We used to give them rice," he said.

But Am Sam Ath, a technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho, said villagers in Andong have endured tough conditions for too long, and called on the government to intervene.

"Development can be good, but the government has to take care of the people who are affected by it by finding suitable places for them," he said.  

Situated on a low-lying rice field, Andong - a collection of shacks prone to flooding and plagued by disease during the rainy season - is an example of one of the worst relocation sites established by the government, rights groups say.

Families there live on four-metre-by-six-metre plots, and only about 400 residents have been given legal land titles, making the prospect of another forced relocation likely for most.

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