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Justice sought two years on

Evicted residents of Borei Keila in Phnom Penh sift through the debris of buildings to collect any remaining usable materials
Evicted residents of Borei Keila in Phnom Penh sift through the debris of buildings to collect any remaining usable materials after their houses were levelled in January 2012. Heng Chivoan

Justice sought two years on

Residents who were forcibly evicted from their homes in Borei Keila on this day two years ago will hold a ceremony today to remind the public of the pain they endured and push for compensation they say is still owed.

On January 3, 2012, more than 300 families from Borei Keila, in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district, were violently forced from their homes by a construction company and authorities to make way for a project yet to be built.

“We don’t want the struggles we endured to slip our mind,” community representative Pich Lim Khuon said. “We have struggled to live on a pile of rotten rubbish in dilapidated tents, under the balcony and under the staircases of the Borei Keila buildings. The same buildings we have been waiting two years to live in,” he said.

Suy Sophan, the owner of development firm Phan Imex, which had promised to build 10 high-rises for more than 1,700 families in exchange for their homes, declared bankruptcy in 2010 after building only eight of them. Families who missed out on apartments were evicted anyway and told to move to relocation sites in Kandal province or on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, but many refused.

Another community representative, Sar Sorn, said that when the company destroyed their homes, the authorities failed to help them, but when the evictees protested, they were charged with causing damage.

“The authorities committed illegal acts clearing our homes and destroying our property, and then they charged us for causing damage and threatened to send us to prison,” she said.

One of them, grandmother Tim Sakmony, spent months in prison in 2012 on a charge derided as a government attempt to silence her community.

Chum Ngann, who was also evicted two years ago, hopes that the ceremony today will raise awareness that they have still not been compensated for losing their homes and that they deserve a better life.

“We want real solutions from the authorities, because we want our children to live in a safe place just like other Cambodian people do,” she said.

Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong promised in May last year to resolve the problems at Borei Keila, but is yet to act.

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche declined to comment last night, saying he could provide a response today.

Phan Imex’s Sophan could not be reached yesterday.

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