About ten families on Monday moved into their new homes at a relocation site on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, nearly a decade after being forcibly evicted from the city center along with nearly 1,000 others and having spent the past three years living in squalor along an open sewer.
The Sambok Chap community was evicted from Chamkar Mon district’s Tonle Basac commune in June 2006 and sent to live on 1.5-hectares of swampy land some 20 km from the city center in Prek Pnov district in a community known as the “Bird’s Nest.” The 1,039 evicted families were promised 4-by-6-meter plots at the new site in Kok Roka commune’s Andong village, but only 522 received them, leaving the rest to settle on the edge of a sewage canal.
In 2012, City Hall and the Christian NGO People for Care and Learning (PCL) broke ground on a new $5-million relocation site about a kilometer from what is now referred to as old Andong village, with plans to build homes, roads, a drainage system and public amenities.
In a ceremony presided over by Interior Minister Sar Kheng and Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong, City Hall and PCL on Monday broke ground on the final phase of the new 2.7-hectare site’s development.
“[We] are paying attention to the people who were resettled in makeshift buildings close to sewage channels and the riverbank,” Mr. Kheng said in a speech at the event. He said the joint “Build a City” project reflected the commitment of City Hall and the national government to tackle problems that arise from Cambodia’s breakneck development.
“The [new] Andong village community should serve as a good model community,” he said.
In his own speech, Mr. Socheatvong said that the sewage canal at the old Andong village would soon be a memory for the 517 families left out of the 2006 resettlement deal.
“The Phnom Penh Municipality…had to buy 2.7 hectares of land to construct houses on, and the cost was split by People for Care and Learning and City Hall,” he said, explaining that 450 houses had been constructed on the new site since 2012, but had not been equipped with the necessary amenities until now.
Contacted by telephone Monday, municipal spokesman Long Dimanche said families that had been living along the sewer moved into their new houses Monday.
“Today, about 10 families went to live in the houses, and we will allow [the rest] to move in step by step, because the houses are not finished yet,” he said.