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Threats mount as Borei Keila holdout families protest coming eviction

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Borei Keila residents. Hong Menea

Threats mount as Borei Keila holdout families protest coming eviction

Around 14 families from Phnom Penh’s Borei Keila neighbourhood gathered on Thursday outside Prampi Makara district hall to protest their imminent eviction.

The protesters were among hundreds of families who were forcefully evicted in January 2012 to make way for a large-scale construction project overseen by Phanimex, a development company owned by prominent tycoon Suy Sophan.

While the rest have since either accepted on-site housing compensation or relocated to the outskirts with cash, the families held out, rejecting the last offer of eight million riel ($2,000) and a 20sqm flat from the municipal hall.

The holdout families also demanded that the authorities stop using violence against them.

Touh Chantha, a 56-year-old currently living under a zinc-roof home near the former Borei Keila complex, said the authorities had, on August 15, imposed a final ultimatum requiring them to vacate the land within two weeks.

“The authorities warned they would evict us one day after the deadline and would not be responsible for any losses or damages incurred during the eviction,” she said.

Uon Korngvisakor, who previously rejected compensation of 10 million riel and a 20sqm flat back in 2017, saw the latest ultimatum as a threat and a last-ditch attempt to remove the holdout Borei Keila community from the land that had been sold on to a Chinese-owned company.

“We gathered in front of Prampi Makara district hall to request the authorities stop threatening, intimidating, and using physical violence against us. The company has not followed the agreement brokered by Prime Minister Hun Sen,” she said.

Tang Kimsroy, former Rovong Moul community chief in the neighbourhood who had agreed to accept on-site housing compensation, said Phanimex promised to build 10 apartment buildings but had so far constructed only eight, leaving them in limbo.

“The authorities should urge the company to stick to the 2013 agreement and offer acceptable compensation to the remaining families,” she said.

Kimsroy claimed the authorities intended to grant the land to CEO KT Pacific, a Chinese firm which he said planned to construct a commercial 33-storey tower.

Prampi Makara district governor Lim Sophea could not be reached for comment. Neither could municipal hall spokesperson Met Meas Pheakdey and deputy municipal governor Mean Chanyada, who is also chairman of the Borei Keila dispute resolution committee.