Around 59 families who had been living under blue tarpaulins in Phnom Penh’s Borei Keila community were forcibly evicted by about 40 armed police and military police officers Wednesday morning, human rights workers and villagers said.
When the ramshackle houses in Borei Keila were torn down months ago to make way for a private development built by Phanimex, residents were promised onsite relocation.
Under the original agreement, homeowners and those renting property in Borei Keila since 2000 were promised housing in 10 onsite apartment buildings.
Though Phnom Penh municipality has touted Borei Keila as a model of how to responsibly develop an urban area, only three of the 10 promised relocation buildings have been constructed, and only 390 of the original 1,774 families who lived in the community have been given apartments.
The 59 families evicted Wednesday were moved to Trapaing Anhchanh village in Dangkao district on the city’s outskirts.
Licadho Director Naly Pilorge said that five people were arrested during the eviction and released later on Wednesday.
“The villagers were arrested because they were against removing their tents,” Licadho investigator Chheng Sophors said.
Many of the 59 were eligible for onsite housing according to the original development agreement, Chheng Sophors said.
“The policy of Borei Keila is onsite upgrading. Legal families should not be evicted,” he said.
Phnom Penh Municipal Governor Kep Chuktema said that none of the 59 families were homeowners who were eligible for onsite housing.
“Those renters are not qualified to move to new apartments,” he said, adding that the five arrested had become violent during what was meant to be a peaceful relocation process.
One of those arrested and later released was Mon Sokunthea, 33, who said she had been renting property in Borei Keila since 1991.
“I was arrested, handcuffed and beaten,” she said by telephone from Trapaing Anhchanh, adding that by 5 pm Wednesday she had not yet received her promised 5- by 12-meter plot of land.