More than 50 families who were forcibly evicted Jan 24 from the Dey Krahorm community in Phnom Penh protested Wednesday morning outside the office of private company 7NG, each demanding $20,000 for the loss of their home.
Holding a blue banner that read “7NG and the municipality destroyed our houses in Dey Krahorm,” the villagers gathered at 8 am on the traffic island across the street from 7NG’s office on Sothearos Blvd.
Villagers say 152 families were evicted Jan 24 by police and military police using tear gas, batons and water cannons. 7NG only recognizes 91 of those families, of whom 76 have accepted relocation homes in Dangkao district and 15 are still holding out for cash, said Han Sar, a representative of the former Dey Krahorm residents.
Evictees pointed a loudspeaker at the 7NG office, where more than 10 municipal police officers and guards stood outside, and demanded that the company provide $20,000 cash to each displaced family.
But villagers also said they would accept $15,000, which the company previously pledged to offer.
“We need only $15,000. The spirit of discussion is a good solution,” one villager said.
After more than three hours, no one from 7NG came out to meet the villagers.
“I want City Hall to help us have time to meet and discuss with the company to accept the payout that City Hall authorities announced and proposed to Prime Minister Hun Sen,” Han Sar said after the protest Wednesday.
A letter dated Jan 12 from Municipal Governor Kep Chuktema to Prime Minister Hun Sen said villagers willing to leave Dey Krahorm would receive either a relocation home or $15,000 cash, plus incentives such as rice.
Kep Chuktema could not be reached Wednesday, but Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun, who visited the relocation site Wednesday to give away bicycles, rice and educational supplies, said the protestors’ demands for cash were outside his control.
“What remaining villagers demanded today is not my responsibility,” he said by telephone. “It is dependent on the company, and I cannot play the role of arbitrator.”
7NG officials could not be reached by telephone Wednesday, and guards refused to allow a reporter to enter the 7NG office.
(Additional reporting by Stephen Kurczy)