Homeless Fire Victims’ Fate Still Uncertain

Phnom Penh officials could not say Monday when the 96 families left homeless by Saturday’s fire in Daun Penh district would be allowed to rebuild their homes.

Municipal Vice Governor Chev Kimheng did not rule out the possibility that the city might develop the site, located in Srah Chak commune near Boeng Kak lake.

“If we plan to develop that area, we will negotiate with people to move them to stay in another area,” he said. Victims requested funding to rebuild their homes at a meeting with Municipal Cabinet Chief Mann Chhoeun on Mon­day, but did not receive a definite res­ponse, a development official who attended the meeting said.

Mann Chhoeun suggested that they apply for titles to the land, the official said.

Villagers on Monday remained in­dignant about firemen who they said arrived at the scene of the fire Saturday night and de­manded money from villagers before working to extinguish the fire.

Village Chief Mey Chhoeurn said the firemen worked “for a few minutes,” then stopped “be­cause people had no money to pay them.” He said he did not know how much they were charg­ing.

Villagers said some households paid up to $400 to the firemen.

Chum Samol, an elderly wo­man left homeless by the fire, said the firemen had AK-47 rifles in their truck. Fire department officials could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Chum Samol’s son, Bun Dith, 31, said he was concerned about where his mother would live. He lived in the village until three months ago. “They say it’s an anarchic area, but people have lived here more than 10 years,” he said. “They can’t stop us unless they pay us something.”

So far, he said, his mother had received noodles, rice, sauce and 15,000 riel (about $3.75) from a “high-ranking official” she was not able to identify.


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