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.
Residents in the Borei Keila area of Phnom Penh sit on the steps of an unfinished apartment block they occupied Wednesday, following another protest over land. (Lauren Crothers/The Cambodia Daily)

“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.
Ann Samnang, 29, who lives in a tarp tent beside a pile of garbage, said she would not have bothered occupying Building 9, as it is known, if the authorities had kept their word and provided the promised plots.
“I am not satisfied with the resolution this morning, because we want to live in Building 9 and for two years, the authorities have been ignoring us,” Ms. Samnang said.
Prampi Makara district governor Lim Sophea visited the site Wednesday and appealed to the residents to leave the as-yet-unfinished apartment block, asking them instead to send representatives to meet with Phnom Penh municipal officials to resolve the issue.
“Please don’t do that…. To find a resolution, please assign five representatives to meet City Hall governor [Pa Socheatvong] to negotiate tomorrow,” Mr. Sophea said.
“If you stay in the building, the authorities will not respond if something happens,” he said.
Wednesday’s dispute was the latest in a number of broken promises made to this small group of about 30 families who were in January 2012 violently evicted from an adjacent site in Borei Keila.
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.
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