Three months after the forced eviction of more than 450 families from the areas in Phnom Penh’s Tonle Bassac community once known as Dey Krahorm, the private firm that purchased the land from the municipality appears in no hurry to start development.
The northern corner of the deserted plot is currently used by employees of the mobile phone provider MobiTel for parking cars and motorbikes and the southern corner of the property is occupied by family members of security guards hired by the 7NG firm, which was behind the years-long campaign to clear Dey Krahorm of its inhabitants.
Neither those parking the cars nor the family living in the southern corner of the empty land, which is surrounded by weeds and garbage, have heard anything about the plans for the parcel of prime real estate.
Indeed, though the clamorous Jan 24 eviction occurred even before negotiations over a settlement with residents had been concluded, plans for the site’s development have yet to be finalized, company officials said.
Reached by telephone Thursday, 7NG general manager Srey Chanthou said the plan is to build a business center on Dey Krahorm, but no residential buildings as had previously been suggested.
But drawings of the development are not completed and construction is not scheduled to start until early next year, he added. It is also too early to say how many stories the center will be, when it will be completed and how much it will cost, he added.
“Now we are trying our best to push for the completion of the plan design by the end of this year; we welcome all international and national firms that wishes to rent [plots],” Mr Srey Chanthou said, giving an unsolicited plug for the business center, which is still only a concept.
When asked why the company was in such a hurry to evict the previous residents even though the plans were not off the drawing board, Mr Srey Chanthou declined to comment and said that the “issue is over.”
But, according to human rights organizations, the issue is far from over for 335 evicted families currently living in poor conditions in Dangkao district, about a 40 minutes drive outside Phnom Penh.
Most of these families were renters in Dey Krahorm and were never part of the compensation plan that was only offered to residents by the 7NG company, according to Manfred Hornung, a legal consultant for local rights group Licadho.
“They are not expecting a lot of money or houses but they want the company to compensate them for what they lost during the eviction,” Mr Hornung said of the renters, adding that Cambodian and international law requires the authorities to make sure evicted people are properly compensated and that they have a adequate housing elsewhere.
A report released Wednesday by a coalition of NGOs, including Licadho, Caritas and the Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, shows that the families who once rented at Dey Krahorm are struggling to find food and the poor sanitation at the relocation site where they are camped could lead to sickness.
“Many of the people there already told us they are suffering from diarrhea,” which is often accompanied by vomiting and high fever, Mr Hornung said. “Especially the children and the 30 or so individuals living with [HIV/AIDS] are at risk, since they already have a weak immune system,” he said.
A team from CCAMH together with clinical psychology students from the Royal University of Phnom Penh also carried out a mental health assessment and found symptoms of post-traumatic stress and depression among the families.
“Many of them did not recognize the headaches and stomach aches as symptoms of mental problems…. Some of them had dreams, and they were worried about being [evicted] again,” said Sokdearoet Rozet, a psychologist who participated in the study.