Move Rough on Displaced Koh Pich Residents

takhmau district, Kandal pro­vince – As Em Pon, 62, a former Koh Pich farmer, sees it, what’s hap­­pened to him and his neighbors since they were relocated from the lush, cool island near the Na­­ga­Corp casino in Phnom Penh to the dry, windswept fields of Kra­bao commune is so tragic it’s al­most funny.

“This is a poor reduction program,” he jokes ambiguously as he sits in the meager shade of his thatch home on a sun-baked, 8-by-22-meter piece of land he was gi­ven in exchange for agreeing in Jan­uary to leave the land he rented on Koh Pich.

Displaced Koh Pich residents said Thursday that, in the past, they managed to grow enough food to get by on their own. Now many de­pend on the 15 kg of rice and $2.40 they are given each month by 7NG, the company that made plans to develop Koh Pich, as part of an agreement reached with Phnom Penh Municipality when they moved.

“It’s hard to farm here,” said Nget Ouk, 36, a mother of newborn twins. “It’s very dry, and when it rains, it floods, and the veg­etables die.”

The rations and cash usually ar­rive the first week of the month. But this month they didn’t, causing an uproar and underlining just how much former residents now de­pend on outside aid.

At a meeting Thursday to calm the storm, Commune Chief Yev Leng said he had the money, show­ing onlookers a black plastic bag that looked to be full of cash, and promised the rice would come soon.

He said the delay was be­cause Canadia Bank—which has been linked to 7NG—would now supply the rice and money instead of 7NG.

“The delay is not my responsibility,” Yev Leng said, adding that his job has gotten much more difficult since the “new people” ar­rived. “They take people and they dump them on me.”

Yev Leng said there are 174 fa­mi­lies displaced from Koh Pich and other areas of Phnom Penh li­ving in his commune.

“When the company stops pro­vi­ding supplies, there will be big problems for me,” he added.

Mann Chhoeun, Phnom Penh’s de­puty governor, suggested former Phnom Penh residents help themselves.

“If people do not try to make a living themselves, no one can help them forever,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Prak Chan Thul)


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