|Former Borei Keila residents leave the Prey Speu Correctional Centre in tuk tuks after escaping over the centre’s outer wall on Wednesday in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district. (Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post)|
Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Shane Worrell with additional reporting by Kristin Lync
The Phnom Penh Post
“As we have said before, we believe that this issue has the potential to lead to instability in the country, and we think it would be in Cambodia’s interest to create a transparent system to handle these issues in a fair manner” - Jeff Daigle, US Charge d'Affaires
A group of 20 women and children who escaped from Prey Speu social affairs centre on Wednesday went to the office of Legal Aid of Cambodia yesterday to prepare a complaint against authorities and development firm Phan Imex.
The group of Borei Keila residents, who were detained during a protest in Phnom Penh on January 11 and held for a week without charge, will take action against the company, the Borei Keila authority and the Phnom Penh municipal authority, group representatives said.
Chum Ngan, 39, said the residents, their husbands and relatives had asked for advice because they did not understand their rights and wanted NGOs and the local and international communities to help them.
“They [Phan Imex and authorities] conspired to destroy our houses and property, and confined us,” she said.
The legal aid office had agreed to help, but villagers were concerned about their immediate safety and livelihoods, because they had no shelter or businesses.
The group was asked to leave the legal aid office after lunch because it could not provide them with accommodation, she said.
Chum Ngan and her family will stay with relatives in Toul Kork district and other villagers will stay with relatives in Daun Penh and Meanchey districts.
Villager Ath Samnang, 27, said she will live under the Borei Keila building until Phan Imex and the Phnom Penh authority give her a flat.
“I don’t go anywhere because I am a real victim,” she said.
In 2003, Phan Imex agreed to construct 10 buildings on two hectares of land to house 1,776 families, in exchange for development rights to a remaining 2.6 hectares. The firm has constructed only eight buildings. Sia Phearum, secretariat director of Housing Rights Task Force, said his office could not accommodate the residents for more than one night.
“However, we will keep watching and provide legal aid to them,” he said.
“They worry that the company and the authorities will come and detain them again.”
Peung Yok Hiep, director of Legal Aid of Cambodia, could not be reached for comment.
Jeff Daigle, Charge d’Affairs from the US Embassy, said yesterday that the escalating Borei Keila issue could have widespread consequences.
“As we have said before, we believe that this issue has the potential to lead to instability in the country, and we think it would be in Cambodia’s interest to create a transparent system to handle these issues in a fair manner,” he said.
Eight Borei Keila residents arrested during clashes with authorities on January 3 remain in Prey Sar prison.