The developer of the Borei Keila buildings and owner of influential Phanimex company, Suy Sophan, died of liver cancer on Monday, according to information from a Hun Sen relative.
Hun Sinath, the prime minister's sister, posted on Facebook that Suy Sophan, 65, passed away on March 29 due to liver cancer. Suy Sophan was the owner of Phanimex which has been embroiled in land disputes over the last decade.
Human rights activists and community representatives said the future owner of Phanimex needs to resolve land disputes involving the company.
Am Sam Ath, the deputy director for monitoring at rights group Licadho, said according to Buddhist practices, parties in conflict should stop having hostility towards each other after one of the parties dies. He added that outstanding disputes must be resolved.
“If the Phanimex company still has problems with the people over unresolved land disputes somewhere, the [new owner] must work to handle those issues,” he said.
On January 3, 2012, Suy Sophan's Phanimex company and the Phnom Penh Municipal authority deployed security forces and company guards to clear the houses of about 400 families in Phnom Penh’s Borei Keila area.
Some Borei Keila residents were transported by the municipal authorities to Tuol Sambo and Phnom Bat areas in Kandal province, about 40 kilometers away from Phnom Penh. Those who remained at the site received 4-by-5-meter plots of land in compensation.
Residents continued to protest against the forced eviction, especially after the company reneged on promises to build apartments to house anyone who was displaced, claiming bankruptcy.
Khieu Lay, 46, a former Borei Keila resident, but now lives in Phnom Bat in Kandal province, said around 30 families have yet to receive any compensation.
“It’s not totally clear, and we’re regretful that she died. Why do we regret it? We haven’t received land titles yet and 30 other families haven’t received homes,” she said.
The former land activist said people living in Phnom Bat are facing financial issues and do not have land for farming or to do business. She wanted the new owner to offer people further compensation to maintain their livelihood.
Relatives of Suy Sophan could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Men Sam An, the minister of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspection, posted messages and photos on her Facebook account on Tuesday, showing the minister attending Suy Sophan’s funeral ceremony.
Sar Sorn, 62, lives in one of the eight buildings at the Borei Keila site but said she should get more compensation.
“The compensation given to me is not enough. But I don’t have a choice because I’m alone and the number of my fellow supporters reduced,” she said.