Mall Planned on Tonle Bassac Commune Site

A new shopping center is planned on the site of a squatter village in Phnom Penh’s Tonle Bas­sac commune, a move that will sandwich the commune’s beleaguered housing complex that recently lost a public garden to the site of a new government ministry.

The area, just down the road from the NagaCorp Casino, will be developed by 7 N G Construction, which is currently attempting to begin construction on Koh Pich, the island across from the casino where residents are contesting their eviction order by City Hall.

The inhabitants of the squatter village will be moved over the next two years to single story, one-room houses currently under construction about 20 km from central Phnom Penh, in Dangkao district’s Choam Chao commune, Srey Sothea, an adviser to 7 N G, said Monday.

Srey Sothea said the agreement between community leaders, who oversaw the deal, and 7 N G was officially signed about 10 days ago.

“We will use about 15 hectares to build flats for 1,465 families in Choam Chao commune,” he said.

Though the commune’s inhabitants are not required to move,  and must each voluntarily enter into a contract with 7 N G, some say they do not really have much of a choice. Visiting the area for the first time on Monday, Eang Sophea, 38, said she was afraid of trading one poor lifestyle for another and felt life in Choam Chao will likely be harder than in Tonle Bassac because of the lack of services and employment at the remote location.

However, she said: “If we do not accept, we get nothing. I will accept in a reluctant way.”

Work on 60 of the flats began Jan 18. Each home will be four meters by 10 meters and include an outside kitchen. The homes will be built on a 4 meter by 16 meter lot, Srey Sothea said.

The company is also going to build a health center, community offices and kindergarten, he said.

In Tonle Bassac on Monday, people were stamping their fingerprints on contracts outside community chief Phann Narin’s office. He showed a document from the Council of Ministers dated July 8, 2003 approving development of the area. Phann Narin said three other companies had approached community leaders before the deal with 7 N G was finalized Jan 16, including Phanimex Co Ltd and  Mong Reththy Group.

Most of the squatters were only told about the agreement over the past month, he said, and he has since encouraged each to visit the Choam Chao site. Most were happy with the chance to leave Tonle Bassac, he added.


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