Red Cross Gives Aid to Borei Keila Families

Phnom Penh municipality and the Cambodian Red Cross (CRC) on Sunday donated money and food rations to 176 families from Borei Keila—where thousands of people have been violently evicted from their homes in recent years after the land was sold to a private company.

Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong said that the CRC—whose president is Prime Minister Hun Sen’s wife, Bun Rany—had decided to make the donation after the families, many of whom are homeless, wrote to the authorities asking for assistance after their eviction from land claimed by the well-connected firm Phanimex. 

“All of you have already submitted two requests to the CRC, but we did not respond because the National Election Committee banned donations in the month prior to the election campaign,” he told the families gathered.

In Phnom Penh, according to unofficial results, the opposition CNRP soundly beat the ruling party, taking 381,756 votes to the CPP’s 254,210 to take seven of the 12 seats, with some commentators suggesting that land grabbing and forced evictions contributed to the CPP’s diminished returns.

Mr. Socheatvong acknowledged the CPP’s reduced mandate but said the donation was a sign of his party’s commitment to serving all the population, regardless of their political affiliation.

“The municipality has understood clearly that all of you sitting here voted for another party, however the CRC is still giving this donation because we don’t discriminate based on your political tendencies, and we will make good to all of you so that you understand clearly the policies of the Cambo­dian People’s Party,” he said.

However, Mr. Socheatvong also warned the families present—many of whom have been involved in clashes with police while protesting their evictions—against participating in the opposition’s planned demonstrations against the outcome of the election.

“I would like to appeal to all of you to think seriously before joining any demonstration because it will bring insecurity to the country and especially Phnom Penh, and [the government] will not allow the country to fall back into war,” he said.

Each of the families received 125,000 riel (or about $31) 20 kg of rice, a case of bottled water, one case of noodles, six bottles of soy sauce, six bottles of fish sauce, one bottle of cooking oil and five plates. But some of the Borei Keila families were suspicious of the timing of the donation and the CRC’s stated reason for making it.

“I wonder about the donations at this time because the authorities have never been concerned about our difficulties since they evicted us,” said Chhe Phan, 48, adding that finding shelter is her most pressing concern.

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