Five Years After Eviction, Community Receives Water Connection

Five and a half years after armed police and military police evicted hundreds of families from Phnom Penh’s former Sambok Chap community, a clean water connection has finally arrived at the Andoung relocation site in Dangkao district, officials say. 

Mann Chhoeurn, deputy director of the National Committee for People and Development in the Council of Ministers, said this week that although water had reached the area the authorities still had to connect the supply to individual homes in the area.

He also said that once the water has been connected families would receive subsidies from the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority that would vary in generosity depending on their level of income.

“The poorest of the poor will get clean water connected to their homes that is 100 percent subsidized,” Mr Chhoeurn said, adding that the main water pipe had reached the relocation site in Kouk Roka commune in November.

Relocated since June 2006, the 670 families, which made up the Sambok Chab community, have had to live in poor conditions with no electricity or clean water.

Since 2008, 325 houses have been constructed with funding from NGOs, the Cambodian Red Cross and the government’s Urban Poor Development Fund.

Last week, the American NGO People for Care and Learning donated $25,000 to City Hall to build 25 additional houses, according to the municipality’s website. The organization has previously donated $50,000 for the construction of other 50 houses.

But there are still more than 300 families originally evicted from the community in Tonle Bassac commune who are living in makeshift shelters. Mr Chhoeurn said that the government was looking for partners with which more houses could be built.

Immediately after the eviction in June 2006, human rights organizations from around the world decried the event as inhumane and urged City Hall to stop the eviction until a proper relocation site with decent infrastructure had been created.

The opposition SRP accused the government of expelling Phnom Penh’s poor from land in central areas of Phnom Penh to take advantages of land prices, which had started to rise at the time.

Mr Chhoeurn said that municipal authorities were in talks with the national electricity provider Electricite du Cambodge to hook up the houses at the relocation site to the national grid. There are also plans to build a vocational training center in the area where people can learn foreign languages and other skills, he added.

Shortly after evicted families from Tonle Bassac commune arrived at the relocation site, UNICEF transported water to the area. But in recent times a private water provider paid for by locals has taken over that role.

Sia Phearum, director for local NGO Housing Rights Task Force, said that while the prospect of having water and electricity at the relocation site was promising, sanitation in the area is still extremely poor.

“Because no drainage system has been constructed for waste to flow into, the environment there is polluted and the air is really smelly,” he said. “We hope that words of such commitment is actually carried out.”


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