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Fire destroys dozens of homes

28 Jul

By Pech Sotheary, The Pnhom Penh Post, 28 July 2014

Residents help direct a hose toward smouldering buildings in the capital’s Meanchey district

Residents help direct a hose toward smouldering buildings in the capital’s Meanchey district yesterday. A fire gutted some 35 homes, and was believed to have started because of an electrical fault. Eli Meixler

A slum fire in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district gutted some 35 homes yesterday, launching a frantic rescue effort and ultimately displacing scores of families, officials and aid workers said at the scene yesterday.

According to Net Vantha, director of the municipal fire police department, the blaze burned in Stung Meanchey commune from around 11:30am until 1:10pm, and consumed homes mostly constructed of wood resting on concrete foundations. There were no deaths or injuries.

“According to residents’ information, it was caused by an electrical fault, but we cannot make a conclusion because we are still investigating,” Vantha said, adding that it took 27 fire trucks, each filling up twice, to extinguish the fire.

Meanchey district governor Pich Keomony said yesterday that he had initially heard the fire started in a welding shop, but added that he too was still unsure of the actual cause.

Keomony said authorities are seeking unoccupied land nearby where the displaced residents can put up temporary shelter.

“Today I will go down to meet with them and bring them some materials, such as tents and rice. And the district has also reported it to the Cambodian Red Cross,” he said.

Though Vantha put the number of destroyed homes at about 35, Rith Theary, a staffer at Pour Un Sourire d’Enfant – the offices of which are a stone’s throw from the scene of the fire – said that the number could be even higher, given the haphazard construction of dwellings in the slum.

Of the houses that were destroyed, Theary said, some 90 per cent belonged to PSE staff and those to whom they offered vocational training.

“Some people are slightly injured, and our organisation is helping with some clothes and by letting them stay in the centre for a while,” he said.

One aid worker on the scene who asked not to be named said the neighbourhood was among Phnom Penh’s neediest and most vulnerable.

The attempts to put out the fire were at times chaotic, with onlookers scrambling to help firefighters by grabbing their own buckets and collecting runoff from fire engines to douse residual flare-ups. Some young men climbed on roofs to help firefighters stabilise hoses and spray the scorched area from above.

One of the victims, Pich Chenda, half of whose house was gutted in the fire, said she had no idea about the cause of the fire, and that she would move in with her brother for the time being.

According to Vantha, the fire police director, yesterday’s blaze was the 49th in Phnom Penh so far this year. These fires have caused three deaths and three injuries, as well as the destruction of seven motorbikes, six cars and 79 houses.

Hospital discharges guards

28 Jul

By Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Alice Cuddy, The Pnhom Penh Post, 28 July 2014

Civilians face off against government security guards during a violent clash on July 15

Civilians face off against government security guards during a violent clash on July 15. Guards injured in the violence have since recovered. Hong Menea

All of the security guards who were injured during a violent protest next to Freedom Park earlier this month, many of whom were said by the government to be in “critical condition” less than two weeks ago, have now been discharged from hospital.

Daun Penh District Governor Kouch Chamroeun said most of the injured Daun Penh district security guards were released last Tuesday, the same day that the Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party reached a deal to end the political deadlock.

“Right now, all of the victims have gone home and will get better. There is just one who continues to receive treatment from home.”

According to Chamroeun, payment for the injured guards’ stay in hospital was footed by “the government and other authorities”.

Meas Phoeun, 58, said he was discharged from Calmette just hours before opposition members charged over their alleged role in the violence were released from prison.

“My head still feels dizzy and I have been sick because one of the wounds on my head still hurts,” he said.

Phoeun said that his family has received more than $1,000 from the Cambodian Red Cross and other “generous people”.

Norm Palla, a deputy village chief also injured in the violence, said he was unsure who paid for his treatment.

“I don’t know if it was the government or City Hall or Daun Penh authorities, but I didn’t pay,” he said.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said that while the CPP “looks after them [the security guards] very well”, the same treatment has not been afforded in the past to injured protesters.

“What I deplore is that, on Veng Sreng [Boulevard], dozens were wounded and the Red Cross never visited them,” he said, referring to the deadly crackdown on a garment strike in January.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he had “no idea” whether national or municipal authorities had covered the costs of the guards’ treatment but said: “In theory, the hospital has a right to claim this money.”

Hundreds Threatened by Erosion of Mekong River Banks

28 Jul

By Ouch Sony, The Cambodia Daily, 27 July 2014

English2

Companies Squabble, Villagers Protest in Kandal

28 Jul

By Aun Pheap, The Cambodia Daily, 27 July 2014

English1

City Hall Plans New Dumpsite, Extended Riverside

28 Jul

By Sek Odom And Kang Sothear, The Cambodia Daily, 25-26 July 2014

English4

Kem Sokha Questioned Over Violent Freedom Park Protest

28 Jul

By Khoun Narim, The Cambodia Daily, 25-26 July 2014

English3

Homes move due to floods

25 Jul

By Pech Sotheary, The Pnhom Penh Post, 25 July 2014

Coastal erosion became serious enough in Kampong Cham province for authorities to dismantle and move 13 houses along the Mekong.

Officials are planning to do the same for about 100 others to prevent them from falling into the river due to rising water levels over the past few days, Heng Vanny, Srei Santhor district governor, said. Affected homes are located in Koh Andet commune’s Korki village.

“I have reported to the provincial authorities and the National Committee for Disaster Management for food aid, materials [and] money to help the victims,” Vanny said.

Houses already disassembled and moved now sit on a nearby hill, where homes are presumably safe from flooding or sinking into the water, Vanny said. He plans on moving 102 more houses to the same area.

Meas Samak said that he had to move when his backyard flooded, knocking down some trees.

Samak said the temporary move will keep him safe amid rising water.

“We will move the house across other’s land and log some trees in order to get a place to stay,” Samak said, maintaining some optimism.

Kampong Cham provincial governor Lun Limthai said that each affected family will receive $75.

The Cambodian Red Cross provincial team will continue helping those who plan to move their homes as well as those who could face flood-related problems in the future.

“We have a plan to evacuate them to the safe hill, [and provide] medicine and food,” Limthai said.

The water level along the Mekong in Kampong Cham was 13.2 metres yesterday, according to the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, which predicts a rise to 13.4 metres.

The National Committee for Disaster Management’s Nhem Vanda said the body has prepared between 10,000 and 20,000 tonnes of rice seeds and 25 tonnes of vegetables.

Tensions high in KDC fight

25 Jul

By Khouth Sophak Chakrya, The Pnhom Penh Post, 25 July 2014

Villagers embroiled in a land dispute with KDC International make their case to the press earlier this month

Villagers embroiled in a land dispute with KDC International make their case to the press earlier this month. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Villagers locked in a dispute with KDC International, a company owned by the wife of a government minister, said yesterday that officials had presented them with an agreement to end a standoff that has lasted some weeks. Police, however, said that wasn’t the case.

Representative Smuon Nhearn, whose house was searched on Wednesday, said police who have surrounded homes in Kampong Tralach district’s Lor Peang village in recent weeks returned to his property to compromise.

“Commune councillors and the district police chief told us to break up the gathering with the promise that authorities will not arrest us,” he said.

Dozens of villagers have been holed up in one house and a tent close to the area that is in dispute, planning their next move.

A row dating back to 2007 between villagers and KDC – owned by Chea Kheng, the wife of Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem – has escalated this month, leading to clashes and arrests.

Khath Saroun, 32, a wife of Seang Hen, a village representative arrested earlier this week, said that the police were not trying to end hostilities, only trick villagers.

“We asked [authorities] to release my husband and another representative but they rejected this, so how can we believe they won’t arrest us when we disperse?”

Hul Veasna, chief of police at Kampong Tralach district, said villagers had been told to end their demonstrations and move on.

“We need to inform them to break up their gathering.”

Workers clash: At factory in Kandal, fight over protest

25 Jul

By Mom Kunthear, The Pnhom Penh Post, 25 July 2014

Melees at a garment factory in Kandal province between striking workers and employees who are against the industrial action have left five people mildly injured.

Employees at the Tae Young factory began striking a week ago, calling for two administrators at the plant to be fired, among other demands, said Seang Rithy, president of the Cambodian Labour Solidarity Union Federation.

“Since we protested more than a week, the workers have clashed with each other two times already, causing about five people to be injured, but they are not seriously hurt,” Rithy said.

In addition to the firings, the demands include the reinstatement of six union officials who were fired in April, the elimination of forced overtime and the payment of wages during protests.

Lor Sopheak, vice president of Rithy’s union, said negotiations with ministry officials have not yet yielded any results.

Minister Meets NGOs Over Ongoing UDG Dispute

25 Jul

By Khoun Narim, The Cambodia Daily, 25 July 2014

English3

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