The threat of eviction, which could take them far away from life-saving services, still hangs over the small community.
An HIV+ resident at Borei Keila on Tuesday last week.
NEARLY 10 months ago, 18 local and international groups condemned the planned relocation of 31 families affected by HIV in the Borei Keila community to Tuol Sambo, about 20 kilometres from Phnom Penh.
The planned community at Tuol Sambo would be squalid, they said. Densely packed and with no clean water or electricity and poor sanitation facilities, many feared the shelters would become breeding grounds for disease.
The green metal shelters they'd be moving into would be only 3.5-by-4.8 metres and would house many people.
The planned community at Tuol Sambo didn't even meet the minimum requirement for emergency refugee camps, according to a report from Medecins Sans Frontieres.
And most importantly, they'd be moved far away from their sources of anti-retrovirals necessary to fight HIV/AIDS.
Fast-forward 10 months, and nothing has changed.
The municipality still says the relocation is "an act of charity", and the Tuol Sambo green shelters are waiting to be filled. Meanwhile, HIV-positive families are still detached from the rest of the Borei Keila community.
District authorities have been asked to check again if any families in Borei Keila have a right to move into onsite apartments, said Mann
Chhoeun, Phnom Penh deputy governor.
Under a 2004 agreement, if a family has lived continuously at the location since 2000 or before, they are eligible for onsite housing, but the HIV community says it has not been given the chance to move to the apartments they should be eligible for.
This would be against the spirit, if not the letter, of the HIV law, said Manfred Hornung, an advisEr with the rights group Licadho.
A 2002 HIV law strictly prohibited discrimination against HIV-infected people that prevented their integration into society and stated, "All persons who have HIV/AIDS shall have full rights to freedom of residence and of movement."
Said Hornung: "From a legal point of view, such an eviction is not tolerable and is in fact illegal. It would be in contravention of everything that has been preached in the last few years."
Desperate to avoid move
Residents have made last-ditch efforts to avoid the move, sending letters to Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany, the head of the Cambodian Red Cross. But with a May 5 eviction deadline, the residents are running out of options.
"We need the government to provide us with good accommodation and HIV/AIDS services,' said Penh Sim, deputy chief of the HIV community at Borei Keila.
Recently, a number of Borei Keila residents went to the relocation site to visit what they expect will be their new homes.
"We cannot live there because we have three to five members per family," Suon Davy, who has HIV, said Tuesday about the size of the shelters.
The dark sheet-metal houses are also hot, a serious problem because intense heat can damage the anti-retroviral drugs.
"These are not houses; these are pigs' barns," said one community member upon seeing the relocation site.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KHOUTH SOPHAK CHAKRYA