Long before the Dey Krahorm evictions, Meas Chrip was relocated from Tonle Bassac commune’s Village 14 with 3,000 other families starting in late 2001.
In the intervening years, Meas Chrip said, she has seen little im-provement at her relocation site, the Sen Sok community on the outskirts of Russei Keo district’s Khmuonh commune.
She also said that she is jealous of the Dey Krahorm residents who were evicted Saturday: “If we make a comparison between my community to today’s Dey Kra-horm villagers, I think Dey Kra-horm slum people have gotten good treatment at [their] relocation site as well as a better compensation to start a new life,” Meas Chrip said.
Several years ago, the families who were moved to Sen Sok re-ceived 7-meter by 15-meter plots of land and only about $11, as well as 50 kg of uncooked rice. Dey Krahorm residents who were relocated have been promised $200 and a concrete house at their relocation site.
Before Meas Chrip was evicted from Village 14, she was a vegetable vendor in Phnom Penh, where she earned two to three times as much money as she does today.
Now, bereft of customers in the suburbs, she works as a construction laborer at Grand Phnom Penh International City for about $2.50 a day.
Her husband, Kuoy Tharin, 45, is a motorcycle taxi driver who also earns about $2.50 a day. Feeding seven children on $5 to $6 a day is a challenge for the couple.
Although more than 3,000 families were relocated to Sen Sok since late 2001, a dozen villagers interviewed Thursday said they’d only been connected to state-supplied water and electricity since last year.
Khmuoy commune chief Suong Mok said that before the water and electricity was hooked up, living conditions were worse be-cause of the high prices paid to private companies.
“I think their family economy will get better and improve in the near future, as water and electricity owned by the state are now available there,” he said. Next, he said, employment needs to be created for the villagers.
“To live here is not a kind of happy life,” said 40-year-old Chhay Kim Cheng. “But we’ve got no choice.”
She said that just 300 former Tonle Bassac people continue living at the relocation site, because central Phnom Penh is 13 km away and there are no jobs at Sen Sok.
Suong Mok, however, said that of the 3,000 families that were evicted and resettled in his commune between 2001 and 2003, about 2,000 remain.
Those families that did leave Sen Sok have mostly settled back in the city center after selling their plots for between $300 and $1,000, villagers said. Suong Mok once again gave a higher estimate, saying that many families took advantage of rising land prices before the July election and sold plots for anywhere from $7,000 to $10,000.
There is a high school and a state-run school in the area, 49-year-old Ngin Hak said, but the state school charges students a daily fee to attend. That is a price many cannot afford, so many children are not in school.
“To dump us far from the city downtown area is okay, but who is going to feed and take care of our kids’ future?” Ngin Hak said.
“Only two types of jobs are available here, and they require spending money for traveling: construction workers or motor taxi drivers.”