Borei Keila Residents Demand Action on Lawsuits

About 60 former residents of the Borei Keila area protested at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday, demanding the court issue a formal response to two lawsuits residents filed against the Phanimex company for evicting them earlier this year.

Borei Keila representative Karo Hony said residents were frustrated that the court had not issued a re­sponse to a Feb. 13 civil lawsuit against Phanimex for failing to honor an agreement to provide onsite housing to residents, and another March 6 criminal suit seeking $360,000 in de­molition damages from the company for 120 families who lost their homes.

“If we don’t get an answer soon, we will protest all over Phnom Penh,” Ms. Hony said. “We’d rather die than let the company steal our houses.”

Community Legal Education Cen­ter lawyer Chen Socheat, who represents Borei Keila residents, said that the court has 30 days to respond to a lawsuit and is not legally required to issue a response until today. Muni­cipal court clerk Houng Bun Hour de­clined to comment.

Borei Keila resident Choum Ngann said she would join six other community representatives invited for a meeting today with Prampi Makara district chief Saom Sovann and Phanimex chairwoman Suy Sophan about the ongoing dispute.

More than 300 residents were evicted and their homes demolished after a violent Jan. 3 standoff with police, which has been condemned by observers as a serious human rights violation.

But Phnom Penh City Hall issued a statement on its website Sunday claiming authorities had acted with sensitivity toward the evictees.

The municipality said the evicted residents were responsible for their own plight because they had moved to Phnom Penh after the Khmer Rouge regime and “crowded in the midst of other poorest among the poor in narrow, dark, dirty” places.

“They became victims of their own making when development and growth took them by surprise, […but] with the sensitivity and care of the national and municipal au­thorities, innocent people get their fair share, investors and developers get their money’s worth, and the city will grow to be developed to be a shining jewel of Cambodia,” the statement said.

Housing Rights Task Force secretariat director Sia Phearum dismissed the municipality’s claims of altruism. “If the municipality loves its people, then they would have provided services for them ,” he said.


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