A former Dey Krahorm resident outside the National Assembly displays wounds he said he suffered Saturday during the eviction.
The Phnom Penh Post
Written by Chhay Channyda
Wednesday, 28 January 2009
In letter to City Hall, National Assembly president says help is needed, makes no specific demands to developer 7NG.
National Assembly President Heng Samrin urged the municipality Tuesday to intervene in the bitter dispute between families forcibly removed Saturday from Phnom Penh's Dey Krahorm neighbourhood and private developer 7NG. He made no specific demands, however.
Evicted residents had submitted a complaint to the influential ruling party official Monday, asking for cash compensation to be reinstituted.
"Residents said that on January 24, the 7NG company and municipality demolished and bulldozed their houses without proper compensation," Heng Samrin said in a letter delivered to City Hall, a copy of which was obtained by the Post. "Please help solve this problem and report back to the [human rights] committee."
Cash compensation or a home at a relocation site 16 kilometres from the city, in the village of Damnak Trayoeng, had been offered by the private developer. In the weeks before the eviction, 7NG upped its cash offer to US$20,000, yet all but a handful of the remaining residents held out, arguing neither a home outside the city nor the cash figure offered was sufficient compensation.
Diamonds aren't forever
Dey Krahorm community spokesman Chan Vichet said flocks of evictees would continue protests outside the National Assembly until cash compensation was reinstituted.
But he lamented what he described as a series of broken promises by the authorities.
"I remember the Phnom Penh governor telling us not to exchange our diamonds for stone," he said, referring Kep Chuktema's warning to Dey Krahorm residents not to be cheated when he visited the prime-location slum before the 2003 national election.
Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun Tuesday declined to comment on how Heng Samrin's letter would affect City Hall's stance.
However, 7NG Chairman Srey Sothea insisted he would not budge.
"A house is the only choice. If I give them money, I would be violating the contract with former community leaders who signed a contract to build houses for them," he said.
In 2005, old community leaders at Dey Krahorm unilaterally chose to sign away the 3.6 hectare property to 7NG in return for relocation homes in Damnak Trayoeng village. Land rights groups had challenged the legality of the original contract and accused 7NG officials of using strong-arm tactics to force residents to accept the compensation deals offered.
In a statement Monday, Amnesty International said authorities are ignoring the needs of residents displaced in the "violent" eviction.
The watchdog group also accused the municipality of breaking the government's commitments under international law.
"Cambodia is obliged to ensure, before any planned evictions, that all alternatives are explored in consultation with those affected by the eviction."