NGOs Get OK to Distribute Food to Burned-Out Squatters

The Phnom Penh municipality agreed Saturday to allow aid workers to distribute food to squatters who remain on the sites of two huge fires that left thousands homeless last week.

About 1,000 families remain, UN Center for Human Set­tle­ments official Peter Swan said. Fire claimed the homes of more than 2,200 families in Bassac district Monday and about 910 families in Meanchey district Wednes­day morning.

Aid workers protested last week when the city forbade them to distribute aid at the fire sites for fear families wouldn’t leave. Some agencies persisted in distributing food despite pressure from police.

Now the NGOs have organized a voucher system to deliver aid to 25 families at a time. The city will not allow NGOs to distribute building materials such as plastic sheeting. Aid is also being distributed at the relocation site.

About 1,000 families have moved to the city’s relocation site, 154 hectares of undeveloped land 30 km north of the city. Individual plot boundaries are being drawn and lotteries held to assign them.

Each family, no matter how large, will get a 7-meter-by-15- meter parcel, Phnom Penh Gov­ernor Chea Sophara said.

The city has given the squatters three weeks to move.


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