Pushing ahead with contested plans to redevelop Phnom Penh’s Borei Keila squatter community, the Phanimex Co Ltd said it will temporarily shelter 70 families as the first phase of its $7 million housing project gets underway, residents and company officials said Monday.
The construction of three new buildings—containing 540 flats to house 540 families—is scheduled to begin in early May. The 70 families must be moved from their current homes so the company can begin work, said Men Chamnan, director of the residents’ group Meanchey Development Community. When the buildings are complete, the families will be moved into the new flats, along with hundreds of other families, Men Chamnan said.
The removal comes amid suspicion from some in Borei Keila who are worried they may be left without homes when the development is finished. In recent weeks, residents tore down a sign at the site that displayed the company’s design plans. In September, city officials announced that Borei Keila would be redeveloped by a private company, with plans to include 10 apartment blocks to house the 1,776 families currently occupying the land. In return for the housing project, Phanimex has rights to develop and sell some of the remaining land privately.
Phanimex President Suy Sophan confirmed Monday that her company began erecting the temporary shelters late last week. She denied rumors that the company may not offer the new flats to the squatters once they are finished.
During the first phase of construction, Men Chamnan said, the temporary housing will be located inside the Borei Keila compound. “It is very important to let people stay within the compound. Otherwise they will feel afraid” that the company won’t give them the new flats when they are finished, he said.
The shelters will be 3.5 meters wide and 5 meters long, consisting of a cement foundation, tin roof, toilet, electricity and water. Phanimex will also give each family
50 kg of rice and other food. “The people are poor and if they spend time moving to a new home, they won’t have time to make money for food,” Men Chamnan said.