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Borei Keila Evictions Constitute an Emergency: Lawmaker

Sorn Touch, far right, one of the evicted residents, and Mu Sochua, a lawmaker for the Sam Rainsy Party, on “Hello VOA" Thursday.
Sorn Touch, far right, one of the evicted residents, and Mu Sochua, a lawmaker for the Sam Rainsy Party, on “Hello VOA" Thursday.

The forced evictions of some 300 families from the Boreai Keila neighborhood of Phnom Penh constitute an “emergency,” and opposition lawmaker said Thursday.

The eviction has forced many people to become homeless, while others must live on substandard land on a relocation site outside the city, said Mu Sochua, a lawmaker for the Sam Rainsy Party, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

Thirty-eight people remain in unlawful detention after they were seized by authorities as they protested outside City Hall this week.

Eight others are in jail on charges related to violent clashes with police during the Jan. 3 eviction.

Suy Siphan, president of the Phan Imex development company, told “Hello VOA” the company had provided relocation to residents living at the site during a 2003 survey, and that the Borei Keila situation had been caused by troublemakers.

She said there were 1,380 families on the site in 2003.

However, Mu Sochua disagreed, saying the site had 1,776 at the time. The company had promised to build eight buildings on a part of the development site to house them, she said, but had instead built only eight.

Nevertheless, Mu Sochua said the evictions are a serious housing and rights violation and need to end.

“The situation in Borei Keila is an emergency,” she said, where people have been treated “like animals.”

Sorn Touch, one of the evicted residents, told “Hello VOA” she now had no home and feared arrest. Without food or her business, she can’t send her children to school, she said.

She appealed to Prime Minister Hun Sen to have the 38 detainees of the Prey Speu Detention Center released.

“I want to cry every day, but I don’t know how to,” she said.

Mu Sochua said it was the job of parliamentarians, including those from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, to “stand as representatives of the people.”

“Our role, as [members of parliament], is to look at whether the government is implementing its policies and especially to enforce laws that we, as MPs at the National Assembly, adopted, right or wrong.”

The government has not encouraged transparency in the country’s development and has not asked residents and other citizens for input ahead of their plans. Fair bids are not considered, and many companies with development rights have ties to powerful public officials, she said.

“So we see clearly that 300 families have become people without rights, housing or voice,” she said. “That is the problem. I invite [Hun Sen] to visit the people directly. No one exaggerates.”

The response by security forces to the Borei Keila, Boeung Kak lake and other residents has been “to protect the powerful and the companies and to use violence,” she said. “This is why we can’t accept it.”

Development is better when it comes from the grassroots, by giving people fundamental rights “to have dignity, rights to have land, housing, food, to value life, employment, health care services, education,” she said. “That’s what we as MPs push for, especially in quality, and not corruption.”