Former residents of Phnom Penh’s Group 78 community and housing rights groups held a ceremony on Saturday to mark the one-year anniversary of the community’s forced eviction.
On July 17 last year, municipality workers dismantled the homes of 66 families living in Group 78. Most were forced to accept an $8,000 compensation offer for land the residents claimed was worth far more. The eviction was widely condemned at the time by international human rights groups and donor countries.
“They organized a memorial service with the former Group 78 residents and residents from Boeng Kak commune. More than 40 people joined,” said Rath Rottmony, secretary-general of the Cambodian National Labor Confederation, which participated in the event organized by the Housing Rights Task Force.
“They want to tell other people in communities at risk [from eviction] they have to struggle to get adequate compensation or they will suffer” said Mr Rottmony, whose confederation represents informal sector workers.
Mr Rottmony said most evicted residents were forced to leave the city and could not afford to commute to the center for work and were unable to rent housing nearby their old homes.
“They feel they were dumped in a deep hole, and they cannot return to their previous living conditions,” he said.
Former Group 78 resident Khing Sorott said that the few home owners that had opted for $5,000 and an alternative plot of land at a relocation site, some 20 km outside of the city center, were now returning to Phnom Penh as they could not live so far from the city.
“Those who went to live there now try to move out, because there’s no electricity and water and it’s very far from Phnom Penh–their land is located in the rice fields,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Hul Reaksmey)