More than 30 representatives of 140 families evicted by Phnom Penh authorities from their homes in the capital’s Borei Keila area gathered on Thursday outside government offices to press for better compensation for their loss.
The families had been moved following the January 2012 destruction of their homes for commercial development to Phnom Bat, an area 25 miles away in Cambodia’s Kandal province described by evictees as lacking running water, markets, hospitals, and schools.
“Sometimes I can’t catch frogs or crabs [to eat], and I have to cut my hair to sell to support my family. I can only buy two kilograms of rice to cook each day,” Kim Sarann, one of the Phnom Bat representatives, said on Thursday.
“Some days, we don’t even have enough money to buy the water we need,” Sarann said.
“I am asking Samdech [prime minister Hun Sen], who hears what I am saying now: Please pay attention to us. We are destitute!” she added.
The families’ eviction from their homes by the politically-connected Phanimex Co. five years ago followed a deal struck in 2003 by Hun Sen in which the firm agreed to construct ten new apartment blocks to accommodate displaced residents, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
Phanimex built only eight of the buildings, though, and on Jan. 3, 2012 the homes of the 384 families living in Borei Keila were razed and the residents sent to settlements far from the capital in Tuol Sambo and Phnom Bat.
Gathering outside Cambodia’s Ministry of Economy and Finance and Phnom Penh municipal offices on July 20, protesters from Phnom Bat demanded compensation of U.S. $5,000 per family and asked to be moved to one-room houses in Kandal’s Aung Dan village, an area better able to support their needs.
Alternatively, grants of U.S. $10,000 per family would allow them to run businesses to support themselves in Phnom Bat, they said.
Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service after meeting with city officials, protesters said they were promised that Phnom Penh governor Khoung Sreng would go personally within the next two weeks to inspect living conditions in Phnom Bat.
If he fails to do this, they said, protesters will return to demand action from the prime minister’s cabinet.
Reported by Savi Khorn for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Savannarith Keo. Written in English by Richard Finney.