Victims of Home Fires Now Face Evictions

More than 280 Phnom Penh families whose homes in Tom-nup Toek commune were destroyed in a fire over Khmer New Year are now facing the possibility of forced eviction, villagers and officials said Sunday.

The Thursday fire, which razed 105 homes in a half-hour period, also took the life of 4-year-old Pov Sokvattey, according to community representative Toch Soph-

arn. The man allegedly responsible for the fire will be transferred to Prey Sar prison today, police said.

The families are now living in makeshift shelters on the site of their former homes in the Ban-

teay Sloek community and are appealing to the municipality for new houses at a relocation site, Mr Toch Sopharn said.

“I am really concerned about the possibility of eviction for my community,” he said. “If they evict us without compensation, I will lead the villagers to protest.”

Villager Sim Kosal, 30, was working to construct a shelter for his family of more than 10 on Sun-

day, and said the past few days had been very difficult, especially during the heavy rains that buffeted the capital Saturday.

“I am also worried about evictions, because we are living here illegally,” he said.

Deputy Municipal Governor Mann Chhoeun said Sunday that the Banteay Sloek community members could not continue to live on the burned site, because it is needed for construction of a road.

“We can’t let them live here,” he said. “We will find a new site for them.”

He added that he did not know where the relocation site would be or what compensation the villagers would receive, referring questions on those matters to Chamkar Mon District Governor Lou Yuy, who did not answer multiple phone calls Sunday.

Local resident Ros Sophan was arrested on the day of the blaze for allegedly starting the fire. Sok Vannara, deputy chief of the municipal fire fighting police, said that Mr Ros Sophan had started the fire because his family members wouldn’t lend him money.

District police chief Uch Sokon said that the suspect has since been charged with destruction of property by the municipal court and will be placed in pretrial detention at Prey Sar prison today.

The suspect’s mother, 53-year-old Ing Sibonary, said she had refused to give her son 1,000 riel, and told him to go to sleep. She said he also asked his sister for 5,000 riel, but that she, too, turned him down.

“He threatened to burn down the house, and a short time later, it burned,” Mrs Ing Sibonary said.

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