About 200 former residents of the city’s Dey Krahorm community gathered at the previous site yesterday to mark the two year anniversary of their violent eviction from their homes.
Framed by fragrant incense smoke, monks prayed and despondent villagers cried as they remembered the destruction of their homes on January 24, 2009.
On that day, dozens of families were forced from the site by police and construction workers employed by local firm 7NG. Many of the residents were taken to the Damnak Trayeung relocation site on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, with little access economic opportunity and few basic services.
David Pred, executive director of Bridges Across Borders Cambodia, said some villagers who possessed titles for land at Dey Krahorm were allocated new land. While the village initially had poor services, basic infrastructure is being extended to the area.
But he said those residents who did not receive land at Damnak Trayeung had “languished” under tarpaulin shelters until they were shifted to a rice paddy at Tang Khiev village in Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district.
“It’s a humanitarian disaster out there,” Pred said. “There was never any plan to deal with people who didn’t have land allocated.”
He added: “Ninety-five percent of the population in Tang Khiev don’t have enough food to eat; they can’t make a living; they have health issues; and there is no running water or sanitation.”
Pred said of the 335 families who initially moved to Tang Khiev, only 75 remain, as people had to leave to find work.
Stickers distributed yesterday at the site depicted the harrowing scenes of January 24, 2009: women and children crying, police wielding batons and shields, and houses catching fire as they were bulldozed.
Chan Vicheat, a former Dey Krahorm villager, said the residents could not forget the eviction while they continued to live in substandard conditions with limited electricity, no clean water and little security.
“They live like animals,” Chan Vicheat said.
Sia Phearum, director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said the anniversary of the eviction was an important reminder of the loss of the community’s rights.
“The residents who were evicted now live far away,” he said. “They lost every right, such as their right to life and right to education, because the stability of their lives changes one day to another.”
7NG Managing Director Srey Chanthou could not be reached yesterday. Chheang Bauna, the firm’s general manager, declined to comment.