When Pheng Phuo moved to Phnom Penh from Kompong Thom province in 1993, she sought better security, better work, better schools and better medical care—all in all, a better life—for her family.
She chose to buy a two-story house inside Phnom Penh’s Dey Krahorm community because it was near all those amenities, she said Thursday while surrounded by relatives who sliced and skewered sausages to be sold from the family’s two pushcarts.
“At first I was going to buy another house, but it wasn’t pretty like this,” Pheng Phuo said while looking around her home, a dimly lit dwelling of three linked buildings made of scavenged wood, bricks and tiles.
“This place is good because it is very easy to do business from here, and the children are near schools, near hospitals. It is central to the entire city,” she said.
But, with a seemingly inevitable eviction looming for Pheng Phuo, 52, and the 10 relatives who live with her in Dey Krahorm, she wants $100,000 in compensation if she is to peacefully leave the 150 square meters her family occupies.
Officials contend there were originally 1,465 families that lived in Dey Krahorm, and that there are 91 families that now refuse to leave the area.
Community members and human rights workers, however, say there were closer to 800 original families, and that there are currently about 150 holdouts.
Officials have been working to clear residents out of the city-center slum to make way for high-end residential and retail developments since the government in 2006 signed the 3.6-hectare Dey Krahorm area over to the 7NG firm.
As of this week, 7NG is offering those last remaining families alternative housing on the city’s outskirts or $20,000 in cash, along with some other incentives such as noodles and rice, in exchange for leaving.
Three families had accepted this newest deal as of Thursday, according to Srey Sothea, an adviser to the 7NG company.
Others came wanting to accept, but didn’t have legal property documents that make them eligible for compensation, he added.
That said, most Dey Krahorm families are still holding out for more money, with Pheng Phuo among those demanding the highest sum.
If the company paid Pheng Phuo $100,000 in compensation, she would buy a house next to the nearby Phsar Kab Kor, she said.
“With only $20,000 I could not afford to buy anything in the city,” she said of the current compensation offer.
“If I go outside the city…. It would be difficult to find a job. It would be difficult to start our lives all over again,” she said.
But getting her asking price is going to be difficult, too, because Pheng Phuo says she only has legal documentation for one of her three buildings.
Nevertheless, without getting her steep asking price, Pheng Phuo vowed that she won’t leave home without a fight.
“If they come to force us out, there may be blood in my home. We would be forced to fight back. Without this, we have nothing,” she said.
For now, talks between Dey Krahorm residents and company and government officials will continue, with another session scheduled for 8:30 am today, said Deputy Municipal Governor Mann Chhoeun.
He declined Thursday to discuss eviction deadlines or how long the $20,000 deal will be on the table, citing ongoing negotiations.
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