Around 80 residents of Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak II commune protested in front of City Hall yesterday to demand that they be allowed to keep their old housing plots to rebuild homes lost in a recent fire, protesters said.
Officials said the residents would not be allowed to rebuild their houses as before, and denied that police had violated the residents’ rights when they entered the community on Saturday in a bid to prevent owners from reconstructing their homes.
Community representative Duong Sothea said 80 families protested at City Hall and handed over a thumb-printed petition to officials demanding permission to rebuild their houses, adding that officials had told the villagers to expect a reply by Thursday.
“I think we will not get 100 percent success yet, [but] municipal cabinet officials promised to reply on Thursday,” Mr Sothea said.
Since the homes of 257 families in Boeng Kak II’s villages 104 and 105 were destroyed by fire in March, many have been living in makeshift shelters at the site.
Tuol Kok district authorities have since proposed that the residents either relocate to Dangkao district or rebuild much smaller houses on site in the knowing that they will never be granted legal land titles. Around 170 families have chosen to move, while 67 families, represented by the protesters yesterday, have said they wished to rebuild but are not willing to accept the smaller plots.
Deputy Tuol Kok district governor Thim Sam An said officials yesterday met with around 100 villagers who were willing to move.
“We told them to give authorities one month to make arrangements at the new site,” Mr Sam An said, adding that authorities were still deciding on how the remaining 67 families would rebuild their razed homes.
“We will allow them to build on site according to the authorities’ arrangements. We don’t allow them to do whatever they want,” he said.
Local rights groups on Sunday condemned Saturday’s police operation, which led to a scuffle with local residents, saying the threatening of residents who were merely trying to rebuild their homes had violated the community’s human and housing rights.