PHNOM PENH - It has been one year since the residents of the impoverished Phnom Penh neighborhood of Borei Keila were forcibly evicted and relocated to desolate camps outside the capital.
Evictees marked the day Thursday with blessings from Buddhist monks and hopes they would be compensated by the development company, Phanimex.
Hundreds of families were evicted from the neighborhood to make way for a residential development project, and former residents say Phanimex failed to provide the housing it had promised in exchange for the land.
Over the last year, families that were evicted from the neighborhood have lived in tents outside the city, far from businesses, health care, schools and clean water.
“Until now, there has been no solution for us,” Chhay Kim Horn, a representative of villagers who refused to move out of their homes, told VOA Khmer Thursday, as monks chanted blessings to mark the anniversary of the Jan. 3, 2012, eviction. “We’ve been living in misery.”
Evictees say Phanimex promised to build 10 apartment buildings, enough to house the people who would be removed by their development project, but the company only built eight. Phanimex President Suy Sophan could not be reached for comment Thursday, but the company has said in the past it constructed enough housing for legitimate evictees.
Either way, a year ago on Jan. 3, houses in the Borei Keila neighborhood were bulldozed, and about 300 families were left homeless. They were trucked to two separate relocation sites: Tuol Sambor, on the outskirts of the capital, and Phnom Bath, 50 kilometers outside the city.
“I joined others today because it is a day of destruction that I will never forget for the rest of my life,” said Tan Nara, who was arrested last year while protesting the forced eviction.
Tim Sakmony, another former resident, who was released from prison just last week after allegedly making false claims against the company president, said the evictees will continue to push for their homes, no matter how long it takes.
“I will still demand them,” Tim Sakmony said. “I’m not afraid.”