With Protest, Families Win Drainage Donation

A group of Phnom Penh families from a flood-prone community living along the city’s abandoned railroad tracks managed to secure the last $2,250 they need to build their own drainage system after protesting outside the Russei Keo district governor’s office Wednesday.

Residents said they had protested in front of governor Thuy Sokhan’s office on several occasions over the years to ask for a donation, but to no avail. About 20 to 30 of them joined past protests, they said, while more than 100 of them came together Wednesday.

Meng Kuon, left, near her home in Phnom Penh's Russei Keo district Wednesday (Jens Welding Ollgaard/The Cambodia Daily)
Meng Kuon, left, near her home in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district Wednesday (Jens Welding Ollgaard/The Cambodia Daily)

“We had gone there before,” said Meng Kuon. “I think maybe it’s because many people went there this time, and with banners, that he agreed to give us money.”

She said some of the 34 families in the community in Russei Keo’s Sangke commune had been living in the area since the 1980s, and that the regular flooding only began in 2007, when a low-lying field was filled in to build a school. Now, she said, their homes flood with every heavy rain.

According to Ms. Kuon, the families estimated that they needed $5,000 to hire someone to build a suitable drainage system for the neighborhood. The families have pooled $1,500 of their own money and secured another $1,250 from “organizations” she refused to name at their request.

She said Mr. Sokhan gave them the last $2,250 on the spot Wednesday, in cash.

“I am quite happy,” said Sok Neang, another resident. “It is so unhygienic. Everything is there, like domestic waste. It smells so bad, and it’s hard to live.”

Mr. Sokhan could not be reached for comment, but his deputy, Koup Slesh, confirmed that a donation was made to the community.

“I know that the money was given to them today, but I don’t know how much it was,” he said.

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