Squatter Families Make Move to Phnom Penh’s Suburbs

Forty-nine squatter families voluntarily relocated Monday to a settlement on the outskirts of Phnom Penh in hopes of improving their living conditions.

The move to Prey Veng commune in Dangkao district was a collaborative effort involving the families, municipal authorities and aid groups.

The new settlement, known as Tuol Sambo, currently consists of several makeshift structures built with blue tarps and long poles. Construction of more permanent buildings is in progress, but few families can immediately afford the estimated $500 expense of building homes.

“I decided to come here because I wanted to own land and get my family out of the worst area of Phnom Penh,” said Chan Vuthy, 33. “I want my children to have fresh air and good hygiene.”

Uch Ponh, a program officer at an NGO called the Urban Sector Group, noted that the families will have toilets and access to clean water. “What they had in the city were only small, small places,” she said.

The 7-hectare parcel of land was bought by the municipality. The Canada Fund has donated $100 per family in materials, or a total of $5,000, Uch Ponh said.

Michael Slingsby of the UN Center for Human Settlements said the families had made several visits to check the suitability of the site before deciding to relocate. The UN agency provided toilets and a well and will drill two more wells in the coming weeks, Slingsby said.

Uch Ponh said she expects a total of 300 families will eventually relocate to Tuol Sambo.

The government provided seven cars to move people and possessions to the new settlement. The move began Sunday and was expected to be finished Tuesday, Uch Ponh said.

“What we worry about most is living conditions,” Uch Ponh said. “They have land, but they do not have enough to grow vegetables.”

Chan Vuthy said people were complaining because work is scarce in the area of the relocation.

Uch Ponh said the Canada Fund is considering donating a vehicle to transport residents into the city to work and to buy or sell produce.

Oung Bun Thoun, 42, moved to the resettlement days ago and says it will cost at least $500 to build a house. He sounded cautiously optimistic about his new home.

“I received land. Right now I’ve got only a toilet, but no house,” Oung Bun Thoun said. “I hope the NGOs will help protect us.”

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