Dey Krahorm Residents: Firm Targeting Community Center

The fewer than 200 families left in Phnom Penh’s Dey Krahorm community might not still be holding out for the onsite development they feel entitled to, but neither are they go­ing to leave quietly.

On Sunday afternoon, about 100 villagers and NGO workers clapped their hands and stomped their feet at a bare-bones community center in Tonle Bassac commune that has served over the years as a gathering place for children to learn to sing and dance.

More recently, according to rights workers and villagers, the community center—which is essentially a corrugated tin roof held up by skinny logs over a concrete floor—has served as the focal point for some of developer 7NG’s alleged intimidation tactics.

“[7NG staffers] come and they sit or stand here and wait for people to go out,” said community representative Chan Vichet.

“They said they will tear down this place, and if anyone tries to stop them they will arrest them and throw them in prison,” he added.

A 7NG official denied the charges Sunday, though the company has previously been accused of verbally intimidating villagers as well as acts of physical intimidation, such as throwing stones.

Dey Krahorm once had a population of about 1,400. Many have packed up and moved to the Borei Santepheap II relocation site in Dangkao district, where 7NG agreed in 2006 to build suitable homes for the relocated villagers in exchange for building rights to their valuable 3.7-hectare city center plot.

Chan Vichet said Sunday that about 200 families remain in their homes, still holding out a little hope.

“We don’t want to leave,” he said, adding that they were initially pro­mised onsite relocation in 2003 when the concession was granted to 7NG.

Natalie Bugalski, a legal officer at the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions, helped conceive of the concert at Dey Krahorm, which featured local breakdancers and slow mournful ballads of two singers from the all-female Messenger Band, which is made up of garment workers.

“It’s a symbolic center for the com­munity,” said Bugalski. “7NG is aware of this, and they are targeting the community center.”

Chheang Bunna, a 7NG staffer who oversees the Dey Krahorm project, said Sunday that no one from 7NG has been intimidating villagers in or around the center.

He said that the villagers hadn’t been using the space for singing and dancing but had been renting it out at $80 per month to scavengers.

“We only told them to keep that place as a place for training children to dance and to sing,” he said.

Chheang Bunna said he was unaware of any date that had been set for the villagers to finally evacuate their property.

Villager Chan Vichet said that they had previously rented the space out in order to raise funds to finance the complaints they have lodged with the government, as well as to support villagers who have been arrested and charged after clashing with 7NG employees in the past.

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