Relocated Villagers Report Poor Conditions

Expensive electricity, long commutes to work, a lack of clean drinking water and few jobs in the area are what people relocated from Dey Krahorm and the Boeng Kak lake area in Phnom Penh can expect when moving to the Dangkao district relocation site, according to villagers who have already moved there.

At the relocation site in Damnak Trayoeng village, potholes line the sand-covered streets and “for sale” signs are posted on many of the small concrete homes, of which about 50 percent are vacant.

There is no official number of people living in Damnak Trayoeng, but according to the private development firm 7NG, there are at least 1,374 families from Dey Krahorm and 500 families from around Boeng Kak lake, which is currently being filled with sand by another developer.

Villagers interviewed at Dam-nak Trayoeng this week complained about the high prices of water, which has to be purchased, and electricity, which costs 1,500 riel per kilowatt-hour plus a $150 setup fee.

Motorcycle taxi driver Sam Sophal, who moved voluntarily from Dey Krahorm to Damnak Trayoeng in 2006 with his wife and seven children, said most of the almost 100 families that moved there at the same time have al-ready left, and that with the high cost of living and lack of work, he would soon do the same.

“For the people who didn’t have money, there is no business here,” he said, adding that there is not much demand for motorcycle taxi drivers in the remote village.

Clothes seller Tit Siphorn, 58, moved from Boeng Kak lake to the relocation site in December, and already wants to move closer to the city center so that she can take care of her son, who is in high school.

“I can’t do any business here, I can’t sell the clothes,” she said. “I didn’t want to come here, but the government told me to.”

7NG adviser Srey Sothea maintained Wednesday that there were plenty of jobs in the area if only villagers were willing to ac-cept them.

“They could set up business in the market, work as construction workers in our company and the women could work as factory workers,” he said by telephone.

UN Habitat Program Manager Somethearith Din said Thursday that simply moving people away from their economic base is not a sustainable solution, as people would gradually return to the city.

“[Just] providing shelters, basic services, markets, water and sanitation is never enough,” Somethear-ith Din wrote in an e-mail.

At Damnak Trayoeng, Van Heng, 44, who was one of the first to accept the housing offer after 7NG bulldozers destroyed his home Saturday, said he will continue to fight 7NG until he gets cash compensation, and that then he will move back to the city.

“There is no water or electricity even though the house is wired,” he said. “I have nowhere else to go.”


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