Monday, April 26, 2010

Borei Keila families petition Hun Sen for better housing

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Sin Sambath, 51, moves into his new home on the first floor of a building offering on-site relocation housing in the central Phnom Penh community of Borei Keila on Sunday.

MORE than 120 families facing eviction from their homes in Phnom Penh’s central Borei Keila community sent a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday requesting either US$40,000 in compensation or $20,000 and ground-floor apartments measuring 4 metres by 12 metres, representatives said Sunday.

The families have so far refused to register for on-site relocation housing offered by City Hall, saying the units in the building – which was opened on April 7 – are too small, and that those who do not receive ground-floor apartments will be unable to support themselves by running businesses out of their homes.

[note: refusing to participate in the ballot is an all-or-nothing gamble for these families. The City has a history of waiting out the resisters until there are so few left nonviolent resistance can easily be ignored or swept aside. This community is showing courage. Do they have the strategy to go beyond this?]

“They promised to provide us with 4-metre-by-12-metre [homes] with electricity and water supplied, but now they want to provide us with only 3.8-metre-by-9-metre [homes] without electricity or water,” said representative Nuth Sokly. “How can we accept it?”

The new building, designed to house 174 families, is part of a project funded by the private company Phanimex, which has been promised a portion of the families’ valuable Borei Keila land in exchange for relocation housing. Another section of the families’ land will go to the Ministry of Tourism.

Seng Vutha, another representative, said many of the families had been living in their Borei Keila homes for nearly 30 years, and did not want to subject themselves to a lottery that could result in their moving to inferior units.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun said the families had no choice but to participate in the lottery, and that their demands for ground-floor housing were unrealistic.

[note: read "unrealistic" as, "if you take all the ground-floor housing we won't be able to make quite as much profit as we'd like".]

“For the ground floor and the first floor, we have given priority to the elderly and disabled people,” he said.

[note: One has reason to be skeptical of such a high-sounding promise. Are they really given to the elderly and disabled, or to well-connected family and friends of the developers.]

“For the other people, it is not important to be on the ground floor or the sixth floor.”

[note: from who's perspective?]


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