Borei Keila Reps Want In On Housing Talks

Evictees from the Borei Keila community protested in front of City Hall on Friday to demand their inclusion in a working group that has been tasked with resolving the long-running dispute in which a development firm failed to provide decent housing for hundreds of people who were forcibly evicted in 2012 to make way for its planned project.

Last month, deputy municipal governor Khuong Sreng told villagers from the Borei Keila community that city officials wanted to know exactly how many people had the proper documentation to qualify for replacement housing, and urged those without the necessary paperwork to cease their unrelenting protests.

An evictee from the Borei Keila community carries flags on her way to a demonstration in front of Phnom Penh City Hall on Friday. (John Vink)
An evictee from the Borei Keila community carries flags on her way to a demonstration in front of Phnom Penh City Hall on Friday. (John Vink)

But 50 community members, most of which now live in squalid conditions near their former homes, marched to City Hall on Friday demanding to be part of a working group that includes local authorities, former community members, police officials and representatives from Phanimex—the development company owned by Suy Sophan that purchased the land.

“We want Phnom Penh municipal authorities to allow five or 10 representatives to join in with the working group, because none of the residents who really suffered are in this group,” said community representative Chhay Kimhorn.

“We do not trust that working group because those people made us lose our land and houses,” she added. “Whatever they are doing seems like a mystery for residents who really suffered.”

But City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said that the working group has already had “long discussions” about the documents it has received from other members of the community, and would inform those not involved in the talks of any decision once it has been made.

“When we finish our work, we will display the results and they can complain if they are not satisfied,” Mr. Dimanche said.

Sia Phearum, director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said that the municipality’s approach would only encourage further unrest from the group, which lives in deplorable conditions in a garbage-infested tent alley that clings to the back of the apartment blocks that the Phanimex built to resettle some of the luckier Borei Keila residents.

“If City Hall makes a judgment without them, they will keep on protesting and it will take more time to resolve,” Mr. Phearum said.

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