Wednesday, 14 January 2009
Written by Chhay Channyda
The Phnom Penh Post
PRIVATE developer 7NG and the Phnom Penh Municipality announced they have the green light from the government to forcibly remove the remaining residents of the embattled Dey Krahorm community, but sweetened the threat of eviction with an improved offer of compensation for those who go willingly.
"If you agree, we will negotiate," Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun said during a roundtable discussion on the "development of Dey Krahorm solutions", which was organised Tuesday by the Club of Cambodian Journalists at the Sunway Hotel.
He said a final notice of eviction has been issued several times, but none of the remaining residents have moved - paving the way for legal action by authorities.
For the 91 families remaining, 7NG has set aside US$1,820,000 - or $20,000 per family - if they do not want the alternative housing being provided in the Damnak Trayoeng area on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, he said.
"But $20,000 is only a price for today. If they do not accept until we remove them, we will give them the old offer of $15,000," he said.
No date for an eviction was announced.
An estimated 800 to 1,400 residents lived in Dey Krahorm before the old community leaders signed a contract with 7NG in 2005, giving it the 3.6- hectare property in return for building relocation houses in Damnak Trayoeng village.
Srey Chanthou, 7NG's managing director, said the bumped-up compensation offer was a last-ditch effort, before sweeping the area, that was suggested by city officials.
"We announced $20,000 last night [Monday] to residents. No one has contacted us yet. Our policy is to solve the problem peacefully," he said.
Chan Vichet, a representative of the remaining Dey Krahorm families, said the offer of $20,000 by city hall and 7NG on Monday evening demanded too quick a decision for residents.
"It is far too fast for us to think about whether or not we will accept it. We want the authorities to give us time."
Too late to bargain?
The leverage of the estimated 91 families still living in Dey Krahorm to negotiate compensation remains contentious among local observers.
According to David Pred, director of the NGO Bridges Across Borders, the residents of Dey Krahorm are lawful possessors of their homes under the Land Law, and therefore the only way to relocate them is to negotiate a fair price they will accept.
"Intimidation, violence, arrest, force, prosecution have been used [to force people to leave] Dey Krahorm over the last three years," he said.
But Chhim Phalvorun, director of the Institute for Civil Education, called into question the residents' legal claim to the land and said they should not demand more than is required to acquire different homes.
"They know they are not legal owners. So, the demand is far beyond their right."