Residents of Phnom Penh’s Borei Keila community drew lottery tickets at City Hall on Sunday to determine which apartment in one of two brand-new, six-story buildings at the community will become theirs, free of charge, a week from now.
The project marked a departure from previous relocation policies in the capital—last year, thousands of people were forcibly evicted from central Phnom Penh, then dumped in a squalid relocation camp on the outskirts of the city.
The government has arranged for two of the 4.6 hectares of land that comprise Borei Keila in Prampi Makara district to be set aside for residents currently living in its rundown squatter villages, officials said Sunday.
Prampi Makara district Governor Srun Srun said construction giant Phanimex has been commissioned to construct a total of 10 buildings made up of 4-by-11-meter apartments for 1,176 of Borei Keila’s households on that land.
The first two buildings were completed last month, Srun Srun said, and they are going to be made available to the first 296 families in the next five to 10 days. “Water and electricity already exists,” he said, adding that the remaining 2.6 hectares at Borei Keila will be given to Phanimex in exchange for constructing the apartments.
Pich Sinath, a 19-year-old student who has been living in Borei Keila since 1993, said Sunday that she was thrilled to take part in the lottery.
“I do not have to pay even a cent to buy a new room for me and my siblings,” she said.
Deputy Municipal Governor Mann Chhoeun told lottery participants that the government has always cared about its people as he handed out T-shirts with CPP logos on them.
The T-shirts were gifts of “kindness,” he said, adding: “It is not related to campaigning for the upcoming commune elections.”
SRP lawmaker Son Chhay disagreed.
“It is such an election campaign,” he said of the free housing. Residents evicted from other recently developed communities and dumped in Dangkao district should get the same treatment, Son Chhay said.
Latt Ky, head of advocacy at local rights group Adhoc, welcomed the developments at Borei Keila.
But, he added, the “state is obliged to find suitable living places” for all relocated people, according to the Land Law.
The villagers relocated to Dangkao district still don’t have clean water, electricity or health centers, he said. “It is unacceptable,” he added.