European Union says it will discuss relocations with the government
Families evicted from Phnom Penh’s Borei Keila community after a violent clash with police on Tuesday continued arriving at an ill-equipped relocation site 45 km outside of the city on Friday, rights groups said.
The European Union, meanwhile, said it would be raising the issue with the government.
Some 300 families were violently evicted from their makeshift homes north of Olympic Stadium after a face-off with police that left 64 people injured.
Samreth Chantha, a social worker for rights group Licadho, said about 20 families arrived Friday at a relocation site in Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district set up by the firm that owns the Borei Keila site, Phanimex. They added to the 157 families who had arrived Wednesday and Thursday.
Mr. Chantha, who visited the site Friday, said the barren plot of land still lacked power and that two wells with non-potable water remained the only on-site supply.
“We have provided milk to children under the age of one and water to villagers, but not all of them,” he said.
“We help them as much as we can. From what I can see, about 80 percent need help most urgently.”
Man Sotheara, Licadho’s medical coordinator, said most of the relocated residents were suffering from either colds, headaches or diarrhea.
Phanimex has pledged to supply the families with 25 kg of rice and between $120 and $200 each.
But Touch Phorn, who arrived at the camp on Wednesday, said only about 15 percent of the families had thus far received some rice, water tanks and no more than $100 each.
“I appeal to all generous people and organizations to help save our lives. We lack food, water and especially material for homes,” he said.
A handful of other families who have refused to move to the relocation site, meanwhile, spent the day delivering petitions to the embassies of the UK, France, Germany, Sweden and the US and the head office of the EU.
The petition asks that the delegations urge Phanimex to either return the land or pay the families its market rate, cover the medical bills of those injured in Tuesday’s clash, supply them with food and shelter in the meantime and release the eight residents that were arrested in the wake of the eviction.
Chin Lyda, a lawyer for Licadho, said the eight remained in pretrial detention on charges of using violence and resisting arrest, and that a trial or hearing date had yet to be set. Officials at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court could not be reached.
The US Embassy issued a brief statement on Thursday urging restraint and expressing concern about such disputes fueling instability.
Most of the other delegations have thus far remained silent or declined to comment.
The EU, however, said Friday that it planned to discuss the eviction with the government.
“We will raise the issue with the concerned authorities within the frame of our ongoing dialogue on land issues with the government,” Ambassador Jean-Francois Cautain said. “As a matter of principle, whatever the problems are, law and order must be ensured in [a] manner respectful of human rights; and demonstrations must remain peaceful.”
Tuesday’s clash erupted after an eight-year dispute between residents and Phanimex. In 2003, the firm offered the original 1,776 families at the site apartments in 10 new buildings, but stopped construction at eight of those in 2010, claiming a lack of funds to finish the job.