After three years of waiting, six families living with HIV/AIDS at the former Borei Keila community in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district moved Saturday into new apartments built as part of a 2003 land-sharing agreement.
The new residents are a minority from among a former community of HIV/AIDS sufferers, the majority of whom were evicted last year to a distant relocation site in Dangkao district as local authorities found that they had not lived at Borei Keila long enough to qualify for new housing.
Some of the new occupants expressed relief on Saturday at moving into their new accommodations, but said they were still worried about their deteriorating health.
Korng Sokhom, 49, said he felt relieved to have moved to his new dwelling.
“We are comfortable now. I can eat salt or prahok inside my house,” said Mr Sokhom. “Honestly, we have a house for when we die.”
Va Chanthy, 39, said she was happy with the house but could not afford electricity or water.
“No worries about the house anymore, but health,” she said.
Chan Bunna, 47, who requires monitoring in hospital for possible tuberculosis, said the stairs in her new home were a problem.
“I am sick. I cannot climb now,” she said. “I will ask again if I can have another house.”
Som Sovann, Prampi Makara district governor, said the government had no responsibility to pay the families’ utility costs and that only municipal officials could decide on the location of the new apartments.
Municipal governor Kep Chuktema could not be reached subsequently to Mr Sovann’s remarks.
A human rights worker expressed concern yesterday that the long wait for resettlement had perhaps worsened the new residents’ health and said ascending to the sixth-floor apartments could be stressful due to the residents’ medical problems.
“It is hard for them since it affects their health. The municipality should find lower floors for them,” Am Sam Ath, a monitoring supervisor for the human rights organization Licadho, said yesterday.
“It can affect their health since they have to go up and down.”
The Borei Keila community was once home to a settlement of 1,776 households, but under a 2003 agreement, the land has been developed for use by the Education and Tourism Ministries and the powerful construction firm Phanimex, which agreed to build ten apartment complexes to house displaced families.
Hundreds of families have since been evicted following a process to determine eligibility for the apartments that human rights workers said was poorly managed and sometimes corrupt.