The only smoke rising above the former residents of Phnom Penh’s Dey Krahorm yesterday came from burning incense.
A year ago to the day, it was tear gas and burning tires, when hundreds of police wielding shields and batons forced the last of the settlers off this site in Phnom Penh’s Tonle Bassac commune–a plot of 3.6 hectares between Sothearos Boulevard and the National Assembly–to make way for commercial real estate. City officials and rights workers said the scuffle left six officers injured and two residents hospitalized.
Among the former Dey Krahorm residents who gathered near the site yesterday to mark the event–a bright blue fence of corrugated metal now blocks off the spot itself–there is lingering bitterness. Over 100 congregated yesterday at Wat Svay Pope where they offered food to the resident monks who in turn offered them blessings, before marching to their old home.
Once there, a few of the women fastened the image of a shrine to the fence, lit candles and prayed.
“I remember that day there were many paid workers and police officers who tore down many houses…and they used a bulldozer to destroy my own house early in the morning,” said former Dey Krahorm resident Nang Sina. “This memorial reminds me that their actions were cruel.”
While the land remains undeveloped, most of the families have done their best to make a new start at Damnak Trayoeng, a relocation site for Dey Krahorm and other evictees along the city’s western outskirts. Some families, however, say they are still waiting for compensation.
“The people did not get their money,” said Chan Vichet, a former Dey Krahorm resident. “We have gone to the municipality and asked for compensation for many days but the municipality denies” this.
Residents complain of shoddy construction, dirty water and electricity they cannot afford. And several kilometers removed from the city center, they have had a tough time making ends meet.
“I miss the place that we used to stay and earn from $7.5 to $10 to help my family’s living condition,” said Srey Lean. “Now how can I help my three children if I can only earn $1.25 a day?”
Ms Lean, however, is better off than some.
Seated serenely in some shade yesterday, Mok Ra, 49, stared at the shiny blue fence ringing her old home from across the street.
Last month, she was among some 500 Dey Krahorm families 7NG relocated from Damnak Trayoeng, this time to a barren lot some 50 km south of Phnom Penh at the foot of Oudong mountain. There are no houses, no electricity, no running water, just a 4-by-6-meter plot of dirt per family.
Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun said the city has compensated every family but for a few that refused 7NG’s offer.
As for the families around Oudong, he referred the matter to 7NG.
“The people in Oudong…who say they have no water, no electricity, no school and hospital, our Phnom Penh government’s policy has no capacity to help them,” he said. “If you want, please go to demand to 7NG.”
7NG marketing director Lail Ngap Heng declined to comment while other company represenatives could not be reached.