City Deems Burnt-Out Squatter Village Unsafe

The fire that ripped through a Phnom Penh rooftop squatter village has left the building unsafe for the 200 families to return, a study commissioned by the city has found.

Meanwhile, the city has offered to relocate the families to a re­mote site in Dangkao district, but they don’t want to go.

Deputy Governor Chev Kim­heng said Sunday an inspection conducted by the city found “the building cannot support the people to live on top of it again. The fire damaged the concrete.”

The Dangkao site is about      24 km from downtown Phnom Penh and un­de­­­veloped, Chev Kimheng admitted.

“We cannot build them schools or a water system right now, but we can promise them 15 meter-by-17 meter plots of land. We will give them the land first and everything else later,” he said.

Like many of the squatters left homeless, En Seth, 45, a con­struc­tion worker, is now sleeping on a mat under a tarpaulin on the sidewalk on Street 49—across the street and four stories below his old home.

“We are only 300 families—300 families cannot develop and form a village by themselves,” he said. At the site, which En Seth has visited, security, health care, education and basic services will all be problems, he said.

On Saturday, NGO workers took En Seth and others to see a plot of land closer to Phnom Penh in an area known as Kouk Klien in Phnom Penh’s Thmei com­­mune, just south of Poch­en­tong Market. “It is near a village already, so it will be easy to get a water supply and an electricity system,” En Seth said.

Chev Kimheng said the city can’t afford the Kouk Klien site, which would cost about $3 per square meter.


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