Thursday, 23 July 2009

Evictees criticise new site

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 23 July 2009
Chhay Channyda

Former Group 78 families report lacking amenities, employment.

FORMER residents of Phnom Penh's Group 78 community who were sent to Trapaing Anchanh on the capital's outskirts said Wednesday that the relocation site was lacking both in amenities and opportunities for them to earn a living.

They said the conditions were so bad that the majority of the new arrivals had decided it made more sense to rent property in the city than to live on the plots of land that were given to them by authorities.

The remaining 70 families from the Bassac riverfront community finally lost their battle with City Hall last Thursday, with many opting to take municipal compensation packages ahead of a forced eviction Friday morning.

Say Ouk, 60, who moved to the new Trapaing Anchanh relocation site in Dangkor district on July 15, said she did so in response to threats from authorities that she would lose everything if she tried to stay.

"I was forced to move out because I was afraid that I would have nothing, not even one riel," she said.

As she and other residents try to find their feet at the new site, which is more than 20 kilometres outside the city, they are hampered by a lack of job opportunities, she said.

"I used to work for a coffee shop in the morning and sell balloons on the riverside in the afternoon to make money for my family," she said. "It costs around US$4 to travel to Phnom Penh by moto-taxi, so I just stay at home because I don't have that much money to spend every day."

Say Ouk also complained of shoddy amenities at Trapaing Anchanh, which also houses evictees from the Dey Krahorm community evicted by city authorities in January.

"There is no electricity. We use candles at night to light the house," she said.

Sin Sambath, 47, said her son would have difficulty finding a school in which to enrol at the new site.

"He will probably just stop studying," she said.

"My son complained to me that he could not live here because it is difficult, but I explained to him that there is no choice for poor people like us."

Both Say Ouk and Sin Sambath said the majority of the new arrivals at Trapaing Anchanh had decided they would be better off renting property in the city rather than staying there.

"Some residents just left their land there and came back to rent houses in Phnom Penh, where it is convenient for doing business," Say Ouk said.

"I will leave here to rent a house in the city after my house is completely built."

Ny Sorphonneary, a lawyer at the Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC), which represented Group 78 in court, said Wednesday that most of the residents would be forced to travel to Phnom Penh and back if they wanted to earn anything.

"Living here is like living in a rice field - residents cannot run businesses," she said.

She added: "The city authorities should provide basic services for them such as electricity and water."

But Kith Sopha, deputy governor of Dangkor district, said the descriptions provided by the residents were fabricated.

"We have electricity, water and other infrastructure over there," he said. "All displaced people are our concern. We will find a solution for them."

But Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun acknowledged that the site lacked electricity and water, which he said would arrive soon.

"I know that the government electricity supply has not reached that area ... but residents can manage themselves to get power to their houses," he said.

He added that Association International des Maires Francophone (AIMF), a global NGO, would provide funding to upgrade the water supply at the Trapaing Anchanh and Andong relocation sites.

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