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Evictees, city official meet after relocation

Evictees, city official meet after relocation

Dey Krahorm’s last holdouts petition Hun Sen, protest at National Assembly for payment

SCORES of families who were evicted Saturday from Dey Krahorm and entitled to compensation have refused to accept homes in Damnak Trayoeng village and are demanding private developer 7NG reinstate its previous offer of US$20,000, community representative Chan Vichet told the Post Monday.

"They won't take a house outside the city. We want the municipality to discuss the issue with the company so they will give us $20,000," he said after meeting with Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun and families seeking cash compensation. 

The City Hall talks coincided with a protest outside the National Assembly by about 100 of the evictees petitioning the prime minister to intervene and pressure the developer to reinstate a previous offer of  $20,000 in compensation.

But Mann Chhoeun insisted cash payouts were off the table. 

"If they do not agree to houses, we will find a middle ground to reach a solution," he added, although he would not specify what it would be.

He also blamed rights workers who, he said, led residents astray by encouraging them to hold out for more money.

"We pity the residents. They now say they should have accepted $20,000," Mann Chhoeun said. 

Although he wouldn't name it, he said one "international group", in particular, "incited the residents not to cooperate with authorities". 

Having held out when the developer upped its cash compensation offer to $20,000 from $15,000, some evictees say they are now reflecting sorely on their choice, as their leverage to demand fair compensation has been severely weakened as their main bargaining tool - their possession of the land - was demolished along with their homes and possessions in a blitz Saturday morning. 

A couple nights at the relocation site without being assigned a home was enough to have 22-year-old Cheng Srey Vann reconsider her insistence on $50,000.

We've stopped demanding [$50,000]because we are now living on the street.

"We've stopped demanding that because we are now living on the street," she said. "We just need the previous offer, but we cannot accept a house," she said, saying a move to Damnak Trayoeung would force her to find new work and cut her off entirely from the life she knew in the city.

Divide and Conquer

Chan Vichet accused the city of cherry-picking the few recognised evictees with special offers to avoid giving fodder to critics. The names of several known artists who had lived in Dey Krahorm were marked by the city on a distinct list, he said. 

David Pred, director of Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia, on Sunday described the tactics as the same being used by the city in offering special compensations deals to chapei masters Kong Nai and Neth Pe. Forcibly evicting them "would have been a public relations disaster...so it is understandable that they were offered much higher compensation to entice them to leave voluntarily prior to Saturday's forced eviction," he said. 

Meanwhile, local rights groups in Phnom Penh met Monday to review food and medical relief needs of residents living in the relocation site, which they have described as woefully ill-prepared to absorb the hundreds trucked there Saturday by 7NG.

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