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Slums in capital decried

A girl rests under makeshift shelter in a slum area of Chak Angre Krom commune in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district
A girl rests under makeshift shelter in a slum area of Chak Angre Krom commune in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district. HONG MENEA

Slums in capital decried

Unicef during a discussion yesterday pressured the Phnom Penh Municipality to develop a plan to eradicate slums in the capital, but government officials offered no quick fixes.

According to the municipality, there are 281 slum communities in the capital, which 2,033 families call home.

Earlier this month, Unicef researchers interviewed 42 families in two of those communities.

They found 86 per cent of the surveyed families lack a land title and live in fear of eviction; 88 per cent live in environments lacking rubbish collection or sewage systems; 55 per cent say they have health problems; and 76 per cent of the children lack money to attend school.

Additionally, the report showed that 69 per cent of respondents experience domestic violence, 14 per cent use drugs, and 4 per cent endured sexual harassment.

“We want to develop the living conditions of the residents in the slum areas of the city by coming up with solutions to the living, environmental and economic problems they face,” said Rana Flowers, a Unicef representative.

“Most of them are construction workers, factory workers, motodop and tuk-tuk drivers, and rubbish collectors. These jobs do not earn enough money for them to live better.”

Pa Socheatvong, Phnom Penh governor, said authorities will examine conditions faced by the slum inhabitants, but declined to provide a timeline for improvements.

“We need more time … to clean the environment, and prepare some infrastructure such as water supplies and drainage.… We could not develop all the slums in a short time, because there are many slums in city,” he said.

Improving living conditions in Phnom Penh’s slums would not only improve residents’ lives, Socheatvong added, but could also improve tourism in the city.

Chun Srey Neang, 45, said that she and her family have lived in the Stung Meanchey slum for more than 20 years after moving from the Prey Veng province to find jobs.

“I don’t have enough money to rent a better house to live in,” she said. “We live in a bad environment [full of] garbage, but I’ve gotten used to it. Leaving the city is not a choice.”

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