Borei Keila reps want in on housing talks

September 6th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

Evictees from the Borei Keila community protested in front of City Hall on Friday to demand their inclusion in a working group that has been tasked with resolving the long-running dispute in which a development firm failed to provide decent housing for hundreds of people who were forcibly evicted in 2012 to make way for its planned project. …

Khuon Narim

Government to freeze bank accounts of four tardy tycoons

August 4th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

Finance Minister Aun Porn Moniroth has sent the National Bank of Cambodia an order to freeze the bank accounts of four business tycoons for allegedly failing to make good on a number of deals with the state, according to a ministry official and local media.

The Kampuchea Thmey Daily newspaper reported Sunday that Mr. Porn Moniroth’s letter to the bank was dated July 22 and targeted four “oknhas,” an honorific bestowed on those who donate at least $100,000 to the state and promise to direct some of their wealth toward the greater good. …

Hul Reaksmey

Companies squabble, villagers protest in Kandal

July 28th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

A company that villagers say owns land that was illegally grabbed from them in Kandal province asked more than 100 residents of Ponhea Leu commune to leave the firm out of their dispute and focus their ire on Phanimex, which is owned by powerful businesswoman Suy Sophan.

More than 100 residents of Tuol Ampil village, some of whom were questioned in court throughout last week over the land dispute, protested Sunday on the 63 hectares of land in question. They demanded that Lai Heang, owner of the Lai Ngi company, return their farmland. …

Aun Pheap

Protests continue for 4th day over land dispute

July 25th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

About 250 villagers protested against development firm Phanimex on Thursday as their commune chief faced questioning in Kandal provincial court over an ongoing land dispute.

For the fourth consecutive day, villagers from Ponhea Leu commune rallied in front of the court, accusing Phanimex of grabbing 63 hectares belonging to 180 families.

The development company last month filed complaints against 12 families for blocking a road and removing demarcation posts, landing those villagers in court for questioning. …

Ben Sokhean

City hall threatens to revoke parking licenses

June 26th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

Phnom Penh City Hall said Tuesday it would revoke the licenses of companies whose subcontractors are accused of routinely overcharging motorists for parking at some of the city’s markets unless the problem is fixed, according to a news release posted Wednesday on the municipality’s website.

“If any company continued to violate the record book, City Hall will cancel the contract,” reads the statement, which says Tuesday’s meeting was presided over by Phnom Penh deputy governor Seng Ratanak. …

Sek Odom

Villagers in land dispute with Phanimex petition authorities

May 1st, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

Four hundred Kandal villagers locked in a land dispute in Ponhea Leu district with development company Phanimex submitted a petition Wednesday to district authorities and rights group Adhoc calling for a solution.

The petition came a day after villagers blocked National Road 5 for more than two hours after the company installed border posts onto what villagers say is still their land. …

“In the petition, we are protesting against the [Phanimex] company for grabbing 63 hectares of farmland in Tuol Ampil and Ponhea Leu villages in Ponhea Leu commune,” said villager Ly Leang, 37. …

Mr. Leang said the petition also called for authorities to measure the land of those without titles to safeguard them from unlawful encroachment.

Officials and Phanimex maintain that the company has had a land title since 1997, but villagers insist that the title was illegally obtained. …

Ben Sokhean

Borei Keila villagers cast curse on adversaries

February 21st, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

Borei Keila residents on Thursday cast a symbolic curse on the people they say are responsible for making their lives a misery since violently evicting them from their homes two years ago.

In the latest development in the long-running dispute, security guards and riot police last week forced residents out of a vacant building they had occupied near the ramshackle tent alley they call home, injuring six people. …

On the receiving end of such justice, he said, should be businesswoman Suy Sophan, whose Phanimex firm was granted 2.6 hectares of the villagers’ land in 2007, but failed to honor an agreement to rehouse all of them. Of the more than 1,000 families affected by the land deal, about 150 families are now in limbo.

He said villagers want to be given 4,300 square meters of the land so that they can build proper houses. ‘We have asked the authorities to help us, but they never have.”

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said the municipality is willing to build temporary shelters for those who want them. …

Aun Pheap and Lauren Crothers

Two Borei Keila Women in Hospital From Clash

February 17th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

Two residents of the Borei Keila community remained hospitalized Sunday after a Valentine’s Day clash with authorities on Friday that left 19 people injured, a community representative said.

Although most of the 19 were only slightly injured, two women were more severely hurt and are still receiving treatment at a local clinic, according to community representative Pich Limkhuon. …

The two badly injured women included Hath Sokchenda, 35, who is seven months pregnant and was kicked by authorities and shocked with an electric baton. Chhai Kimhorn, 35, was also kicked by police and lost consciousness, Mr. Limkhuon said.

However, Sam Sovann, governor of Prampi Makara district, whose district security guards evicted the villagers along with city riot police, disputed Mr. Limkhuon’s characterization of events, accusing unnamed outsiders of “inciting” Borei Keila residents to throw rocks at police. …

Mr. Limkhuon said that Borei Keila residents planned to stage a protest on Wednesday, flouting the city’s ban on public demonstrations to march to Preah Ang Dangker shrine on the riverside carrying a symbolic clod of earth from the disputed area to curse well-connected businesswoman Suy Sophan, whose Phanimex company was granted the land to develop in 2007.

Aun Pheap

Six injured as police, Borei Keila villagers clash

February 15th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

At least six people were injured on Friday when a small group of Borei Keila villagers were evicted from the grounds of an unfinished building in Phnom Penh that they began occupying this week in a bid to draw attention to a years-long fight for proper replacement housing.

As dawn over above the trash-strewn site, the road was blocked and riot police and Prampi Makara district security guards descended on about 30 villagers, who had been sleeping on thin mats under the first floor.

Villagers, including a woman who was eight months pregnant, were beaten as the authorities forced them away from the building and pushed them back in the direction of a fetid tent alley that the villagers have called home ever since being violently evicted from an adjacent area in January 2012.

“I think that they are inhumane in the way they treat us,” said Has Sokchenda. “Even though I am heavily pregnant, they used sticks to beat me up on my back and they also stepped on my right thigh. …

Friday’s clash was the latest in a long and often desperate saga that began in 2007, when Phanimex, a firm owned by well-connected businesswoman Suy Sophan, was granted 2.6 hectares of land to develop in the area.

The villagers on whose land Phanimex wanted to build were told that 10 apartment blocks would be erected for them in an adjacent site in exchange for moving. Instead, Ms. Sophan’s company only built eight, leaving a number of families homeless and forcing them to erect shacks on the land.

In January 2012, hundreds of armed police and military police violently clashed with more than 200 of the villagers and bulldozed the shelters of 300 families before sending them to a desolate relocation site 45 km away.

Some returned to Borei Keila, however, and now eke out an existence in a filthy tent alley behind the apartment blocks. …

The riot and security officials were supported by a phalanx of men carrying Gendarmerie Royale Khmer riot shields, indicating that they are military police. This group was seen retreating along with the other officials once the barricade was erected.

Brigadier General Kheng Tito, spokesman for the military police, said they were not involved in the clash.

“Our military police were not involved in the clash with Borei Keila residents,” he said. “They were present to prevent the further destruction of state and private property.”

Khuon Narim and Lauren Crothers

Borei Keila residents ‘occupy’ unfinished apartment block

February 13th, 2014

Residents embroiled in a long-running land dispute in the Borei Keila area of Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district on Wednesday tore down three metal fences and occupied an unfinished apartment block at the site.

The fences were felled with axes by irate residents, who took the action after district authorities tried to move them to new, but smaller, plots of land away from a stinking garbage site at Borei Keila.

“We decided to demolish the fence, because we got angry with the authorities this morning when they came to measure land of 3-by-4-meters for temporary shelters without agreement from the residents,” said local resident Pich Limkhuon.

City Hall last week promised 4-by-6-meter plots for the families—a substantial upgrade from the ramshackle, fly-infested tent alley they currently share with piles of festering trash thrown from the balconies of the completed apartments above.

After removing the fences that separated their tents from the unfinished apartment block, the villagers grabbed mats, handbags, cooking stoves and other items and headed into the unfinished building.

Inside the one-story structure, with its unfinished staircases and rebar jutting out of the walls, the residents began sweeping dusty floors and laying out their belongings to “claim” the empty rooms. …

In 2007, businesswoman Suy Sophan’s Phanimex firm was granted 2.6 hectares of land for development in return for an agreement to build apartments for 1,776 of Borei Keila’s residents. She promised to build 10 replacement apartment blocks, but failed to deliver on the agreement.

Eight apartment blocks were completed, but dozens of families were left without homes when Phanimex failed to build the ninth and tenth blocks.

Khuon Narim and Lauren Crothers

Evictees, Activists Scuffle With Police in Front of City Hall

October 31st, 2013 , The Cambodia Daily

Evictees and anti-eviction activists on Wednesday briefly scuffled with police and security guards after cutting off traffic in front of Phnom Penh City Hall to demand that businesswoman Suy Sophan compensate them for homes that were bulldozed early last year.

Human rights group Adhoc said at least three women were injured and issued a statement condemning the heavy-handed tactics by district security guards, especially some of whom were wielding batons fastened with metal knuckle-dusters. …

The 50-odd protesters—mostly women—had marched from the Borei Keila neighborhood, the scene of a violent eviction in January 2012 during which bulldozers de­molished the ramshackle homes of some 300 families. Once in front of City Hall, they blocked off Monivong Boulevard when Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong did not come out to meet with them. About 100 riot police and Daun Penh security guards, who are not police officers, soon massed nearby and marched on the protesters, some of whom were lying down in the road refusing to move.

During the tense standoff, as the police were pelted with water bottles, one man was chased down by the district security guards, pulled to the ground and kicked repeatedly even though he was not resisting or fighting back. The man was quickly lead into the City Hall compound and later taken to the municipal police headquarters.

The Borei Keila protesters accuse Ms. Sophan of breaking a promise to build 10 apartment blocks for the hundreds of families living in the area when the city granted her firm, Phanimex, a lease to develop the area several years ago. …

Khuon Narim and Zsombor Peter

The price of land development in Cambodia

March 29th, 2013 , BBC News

Phnom Penh, a city once fabled for its stately colonial buildings and boulevards, and its serene riverside setting, is becoming a city of glaring contrasts.

An economy left in ruins by the years of war and violent revolution in the 1970s and 80s grew at a rate of almost 10% a year from 1998 to 2008. Cheap land, cheap labour and rich natural resources have attracted big inflows of foreign investment, especially from Asian neighbours like China, Vietnam and Thailand. That has ignited a property boom.

For the first time in its history Phnom Penh’s skyline is being pierced by modern high-rise towers, offering new office space and luxury apartments. Land prices are soaring, and developers are constantly seeking out new possibilities for construction.

One area they targeted was the city’s largest lake, Boeng Kak. A company owned by a senator from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, Shukaku, was given a 99-year lease to drain and build on the lake in 2007.

Another was the centre city neighbourhood of Borei Keila, which another politically-connected company, Phanimex, was given the right to develop in 2003. …

Jonathan Head

Phnom Penh’s development not fair for all?

January 31st, 2013 , The Phnom Penh Post

Despite the massive spike in development underway in Phnom Penh, a new report says that the public interest is becoming marginalised in favour of the political and business elite.

The report, from NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT), says that currently “commercial interests are driving the urban development agenda, meaning needs such as adequate low-cost housing, public transportation, and inclusive urban planning are not addressed.” …

Rupert Winchester

Court Hears Borei Keila Evictees’ Complaint

September 7th, 2012 , The Cambodia Daily

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday questioned three Borei Keila residents about a complaint they filed six month ago against the property development firm Phanimex from evicting them from their land. …

In March, a group of Borei Keila residents filed their complaint against Phanimex’s owner Suy Sophan for allegedly ordering the January 3 eviction, which saw police violently clash with locals as they evicted about 100 families from the Borei Keila area. …

After questioning, the Borei Keila residents urged the court to deal as swiftly with Phanimex’s Ms. Sophan as they did with 64-year old Borei Keila resident Toem Sakmony-a vocal protester against the eviction-who was detained in jail on Wednesday. …

Khuon Narim and Zsombor Peter, P. 18

Second Eviction Protester Jailed In Two Days

September 6th, 2012 , The Cambodia Daily

Police and court officials yesterday questioned, charged and imprisoned elderly woman involved in the long-running land dispute at the Borei Keila community in Phnom Penh, a day after an anti-eviction protester from Boeng Kak community met a similar fate.

In both cases, police and court officials would not explain the charges against the women, who have been protesting against their evictions at the hands of two well-connected property firms: the Phanimex firm at Borei Keila and the Shukaku firm at Boeng Kak. …

Dozens of Boeng Kak residents were aong the 180-strong crowd that protested outside the municipal court yesterday and moved on to the gates of Prey Sar, where the two women are jailed ahead of trial. …

Khuon Narim, P. 1

Borei Keila protester summonsed to court

August 31st, 2012 , The Phnom Penh Post

A Borei Keila protester received a summons yesterday to come to Phnom Penh Municipal Court to address a complaint of “incitement to commit a crime” filed by Suy Sophan, director of the Phanimex company, which evicted the Borei Keila families in January.

Borei Keila resident Tim Sakmony, who has already accepted compensation from Phanimex, said she received the summons after meeting with company head Suy Sophan on Wednesday evening to discuss compensation for her evicted son, on whose behalf she had continued to protest. …

Deputy prosecutor Sieng Sok said that despite signing the summons, he had not studied Sophan’s complaint against Sakmony. …

Sakmony said that she didn’t know what crime she could have committed, but suspects the summons was related to not accepting the compensation.

Chhay Channyda, P. 4

Borei Keila Land Dispute Residents Pray for Help

August 14th, 2012 , The Cambodia Daily

Former residents of the Borei Keila community who are embroiled in a land dispute with the Phanimex firm gathered yesterday for  prayer service in an appeal to the government to resolve their dispute.

The residents claim the company failed to provide replacement housing or land to those evicted from Borei Keila area. …

Phanimex had a contract with the government to build 10 replacement apartment buildings for the evicted residents, but the firm only built eight apartment blocks, leaving scores of families homeless. …

Khy Sovuthy, P. 20

Proof of residency required

June 21st, 2012 , The Phnom Penh Post

The Phnom Penh municipal authority has called on Borei Keila residents evicted on January 3 to present official documents proving they are eligible for housing.

City Hall’s request came as part of a statement criticising NGOs and political parties that encouraged “poor” residents, who were not entitled to housing or compensation, to protest. “The majority of the protesters are not Borei Keila residents…they do not have documents,” it reads. “City Hall has already granted housing to residents who have real documents, and only 31 police families and six civil families have not received housing.”

Pich Limkhoun, 54, a representative of 117 Borei Keila families who claim they have not been compensated, said they still wanted Suy Sophan, the owner of Phan Imex, to erect two more buildings at Borei Keila as it agreed to in 2004. …

Khouth Sophak Chakrya, P. 8