Demolition of Rek Reay Begins Despite Protest

Workers for a luxury gated community on Sunday demolished 16 homes belonging to families in Phnom Penh’s Rek Reay community, despite residents’ protests.

Roughly 20 workers wielding meter-long crowbars swiftly dismantled the homes in the Tonle Bassac commune community be-ginning at 6:30 am Sunday as poli-ce kept guard over the proceedings. Workers attempted to prevent journalists and rights groups from photographing the demolition by grabbing at cameras or trying to cover their lenses with spray paint.

Residents representative Chan Bunthol, 36, said in an interview Sunday that the police presence had made villagers too afraid to stop the workers who were dismantling their homes.

“They planned to fence in and grab our land yesterday,” said Chan Bunthol, a high school teacher. “To-day they went and smashed our Rek Reay community homes without giving information…. The company violated our rights to housing and grabbed our land illegally.”

Rek Reay residents had protested Thursday by Canadia Bank’s headquarters in Phnom Penh re-garding a fence that had been built around their homes, blaming the bank for the unwanted construction. Canadia Bank has said that it has no involvement in the dispute other than having provided a loan to Bassac Garden City, the company looking to develop the area. But many residents on Sunday still believed Canadia to be the company behind their woes.

“How can we solve our problem if it is a giant company as powerful as Canadia Bank,” said resident Chap Sothea, 40. “I appeal to the government, NGOs and human rights [groups] to help us.”

Chan Bunthol said that residents planned to appeal to the In-terior Ministry and Prime Minister Hun Sen, over the destruction of their homes.

Chap Sothea said that she fears going to her job as a house cleaner, as workmen could come to des-troy her home while she’s away.

“I am afraid they will build a fence to grab my land and my house,” she said.

Local deputy village chief Sim Vai said that he and other local officials had “done their best for our villagers.” About 80 percent of residents had already accepted offers of $20,000 to remove themselves from the riverside community, and just 20 percent remained because they were looking for payments of at least $60,000 from the company, he said.

Those 20 percent would have their land issues solved by City Hall, Sim Vai added.

But a policeman at the scene Sunday, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was City Hall that had ordered them to the site to protect the workers as they took down residents’ homes.

Deputy Municipal Governor Mann Chhoeun said that he was too busy to speak with a reporter and directed all questions to City Hall cabinet chief Nuon Samith, who said he was at a funeral and could not speak.

Bassac Garden City representative Rath Kumnith could not be reached for comment Sunday, and Bassac Garden City project manager Touch Samnang said he had nothing to do with the project.

“It is not my duty; my duty is only to build the buildings,” he said. “It maybe was the [local government] authority’s workers.”


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