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Tears and Ashes Remain and the Future Is Not Not Clear after the Fire behind Wat Neak Voan

By: The Mirror Posted: March-12-2010 in
Photo Credit - Nick Sells
The Mirror

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 655

“Phnom Penh: One of the hundreds of victims of the terrible fire which destroyed more than 200 houses on 8 March 2010 said, between sobs and with tears, ‘My house was totally burnt down. I am seeking if anything remained which I could sell to get some money to buy food.’

“On 9 March 2010, the victims of the fire continue exploring to see if there is any property left in the ashes from the fire whose cause is still not known. Some surrounded their land by markers, some dug in the ashes, and some went to the water blackened by the fire to see if there is anything from their lost property.

“A victim with six children, Ms. Sum Srey, said in between sob, when she was asked about the fire, pointing to the deadly smoke, ‘That fire burnt very fast. I have nothing left. I am looking for anything remaining that can be sold for money to buy food.’

“According to the local authorities, no lives were lost in the fire next to Wat Neak Voan in the night of 8 March 2010. But 178 big and small houses constructed next to each other in the area, 10 rooms of monks in the Wat, and 21 rooms of students were totally burnt down. This destruction made 257 families, 90 monks, and 181 students lose their shelter.

“This big fire broke out at 18:40 p.m. southwest of Wat Neak Voan in the Boeng Kak II commune, in Tuol Kork district.

“According to investigations by the police, the fire was caused by an electric fault in a house owned by a Mr. Phoeun Pho, a construction worker.

“About 60 firefighter cars rushed to the site to intervene but encountered problem with the narrow roads to reach the site to put out the fire. Some families could take few belongings in time, and some families’ property was all stolen or snatched away by thieves.

“Sister Kong Satha, whose husband is a moto-taxi driver – they have nine children to care for – who rented a house in the area, said with tears that she could only take the television set and a bike. Everything else was burnt. And she did not receive any donation, as the village chief said that her family’s name is not on the list.

“The Tuol Kork district governor, Mr. Seng Ratanak, said that in the first stage, donations were distributed to only 257 families that owned real houses, and the authorities will assist those who rented houses later.

“The district governor said that to reorganize the area, the Phnom Penh Municipality provides two options. First, each family will be offered a 6 by 12 meter plot of land in Ponhea Leu District, Kandal if they agree to leave, and second, if they still want to settle on the same area, the authorities will organize it technically by constructing wider roads.

“The victims of the fire, besides losing their property and their houses, now have also to struggle for their daily lives after this dreadful event. Some fear that they will no longer be allowed to reconstruct their houses on their previous sites, and they will be forced to settle in other areas which are remote, and where it is difficult to earn a living. They just hope that they will not be victimized twice, once by the fire, and then by a forced eviction to live in a remote area where it will be difficult to live.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5146, 10.3.2010

This article was first published by The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 655 - Wednesday, 10.3.2010
Have a look at the last editorial - you can access it directly from the main page of The Mirror.

Norbert Klein is the Editor of The Mirror – The Mirror is a daily comprehensive summary and translation of the major Khmer language press - More about The Mirror

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