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Evictees face a difficult transition

Evictees face a difficult transition

Kandal province
OVER the past eight months, Chork Teng has become an adept hunter of frogs and freshwater crab, stalking her prey at night in the rice fields near her ramshackle home in Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district.

But she laments the fact that she has been forced to adapt to this scavenger’s lifestyle.

A former resident of the Dey Krahorm community in central Phnom Penh, hers was among the 144 families evicted in a violent operation in January 2009, when police and construction workers employed by local developer 7NG Group levelled all remaining homes at the site.

The families were initially relocated to Dangkor district. Then, on December 12, 2009, a total of 467 former Dey Krahorm families and vendors were relocated yet again to the Tang Khiev community in Ponhea Leu’s Phnom Bat commune, said Va Savoeun, the community’s chief.

However, as a result of the lack of employment opportunities at the relocation site, which is over 40 kilometres from Phnom Penh, more than 240 families have since returned to the city to seek jobs, Va Savoeun said.

Chork Teng said that before the eviction she had been a construction worker.

“But now I only have 1,000 riels (about US$0.25) in my pocket, and when my child gets sick, I have to wait for support from an NGO doctor,” she said.

“I don’t have enough money to start a small business here,” she said. “We want to find jobs in Phnom Penh, but we have no money to rent a room there.”

Va Savoeun said yesterday that the government should provide jobs for his community. “They were happy to get land, but if we only have land and not jobs, how can we live?”

He said the families had been given 4-metre-by-6-metre plots on which they had built makeshift shelters of wood, mud, tarpaulins and corrugated tin. But many of the shacks do not even have walls, and the site is prone to flooding.

Meanwhile, 7NG has moved ahead with plans to construct a fitness centre on part of the former Dey Krahorm site.

Chan Vichet, a former Dey Krahorm representative, said it was ridiculous that 7NG Group had evicted an entire community when it had no clear development plan for the site.

“If the company is just going to put up a fence around the land and construct football fields, the government should give the land back to the residents,” he said. “I cannot find the words to say how upset I am about this development project.”

Meng Phally, 50, said, “I cry when I think about the fact that we have been forced to live in an area that floods, so that the company could construct a football field.”

Srey Chanthou, managing director of 7NG Group, declined to comment yesterday. In June, he told the Post that the company had no official plans for the site beyond constructing an exclusive fitness centre for its employees.

Mann Chhoeun, former Phnom Penh deputy governor, said it was “kindly of the company” to provide the 467 former Dey Krahorm families with land in Phnom Bat commune.

But Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho, said it was an “injustice” that the company “has not developed anything on the site besides an office and football fields”.

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