When Vuthy Monyrath heard of the forced evictions at Phnom Penh’s Dey Krahorm community, his thoughts immediately turned to his mother, who is facing a similar threat from developers. The HCD Company, owned by Ministry of Labor Secretary of State Othsman Hassan, has warned the residents of Community B in Tuol Kok district that they must vacate their homes or be forced out.
But there is little Vuthy Mony-rath can do to protect his mother; he lives in Tokyo, where he is completing his PhD in hydrogeology at Chiba University, far away from the threatened neighborhood where he spent his teenage years.
“Sometimes in my dreams, I see my mother being bulldozed,” he said in a telephone interview last week from Tokyo.
For the six years that he has lived in Japan, Vuthy Monyrath said, “I didn’t really worry much about my mother, because she can make her own living…. Now I have to worry all the time about what’s going to happen to her.”
On Jan 22, Vuthy Monyrath’s mother Sok Leng Yin received a notice from Tuol Kok District Gov-ernor Seng Ratanak. It warned that she and the 25 remaining families of Community B should accept $2,500 in compensation and move to a relocation site west of Phnom Penh International Airport or face eviction. About 200 families have already left the community.
Sok Leng Yin said Monday that she moved her son to Community B after he completed elementary school in Prey Veng province, where no opportunities for further education were available.
“I always told him that…I don’t have any assets to give him, so he will have to go out and acquire knowledge on his own.”
She said her happiness was “be-yond words” when Vuthy Mony-rath earned a Japanese government scholarship to study in Tokyo.
Now, Sok Leng Yin and the nine family members with whom she shares her 100-square meter home support themselves by do-ing laundry, cutting hair and making windows.
“If we go to another location, we don’t know where we will find schools for the children. We don’t know how we can find the income to pay for our children to go to school,” she said.
Sok Leng Yin said she would like the company to pay about 70 or 80 percent of market price to buy her home, so that her family can find a new place to live, near schools for the children.
Othsman Hassan said by telephone Monday that his company has offered the villagers $20,000 if they do not accept the offer of relocation. “We cannot offer them compensation in accordance with market price, because they don’t have land title documents,” he said.
Deputy Municipal Governor Mann Chhoeun said by telephone Monday that the municipality plans to exhaust all negotiation options before forcing residents out.
“We’ve learned a lot about human rights, so we don’t want to evict them,” he said.
Representatives from HCD and district officials are scheduled to meet with the Community B villagers on Wednesday. A meeting held Feb 25 produced no meaningful results, Sok Leng Yin said.