At that time the residents of that village, nothing more than an assembly of wooden shacks in a deplorable state, had to pay $100 per family to get their name on the Sangkat list for relocation. All families on the list made them eligible for a plot of land somewhere else as part of compensation for the loss of their current dwellings. A developer who saw some merit in the location at the junction of two major roads had obviously bought the land. The way this little settlement looks now it is probably a boon for the residents to be relocated. The only thing that bothers me personally is that they haven’t been informed of the new location.
Now in the latest development one and half years later it turns out that each family has to plunk down another $200 to get assigned that piece of land. It is supposedly a normal-sized lot of 4.5m x 12 or 16 m. Location: still unknown. We are talking about approximately 50 families or 200 to 300 people. Not a big deal, right? But who gets the $200 or $10,000 altogether? And who got the $5,000 the first time around. One can see that in order to get your personal documents, e. g. ID-card, etc. right, you need to pay a fee, even if it is $100. This means that you do get the right of residence at a particular location. Way back that ‘carnet de residence’ cost only a few riel, but like everything else, prices have gone up, in other words, the $100 were half-way acceptable. I am sure, though, $30 went to the middleman, the policeman in charge of safety at the village no less, and $70 were divvied up among the commune chief and his cronies.
Now what is it with that second list? It doesn’t look like there is any need for it, right? Possibly the middleman didn’t think so, because that demand came from him. No doubt he will have to share it again. Again, no official plan, no location, nothing, nada. On hearing about the additional demand the people at the village started hustling to scrape together the $200. They didn’t even ask one question about the legitimacy of the demand. It seems that when you practically live above a little river, which serves as the local sewer, and which rises up into the shacks during the rainy season with all the health problems that entails when you live in your own waste, you don’t ask too many questions. Poor people have so gotten used to being bounced around and being taken advantage of they accept everything lying down. Is it part of the Khmer mentality that no matter how poor you are you still get squeezed dry by your neighbors; and that policeman is a neighbor? It is not only the rich who do this, no it pervades the whole Khmer society from top to bottom, or so it seems.
But I again dare ask the same question: ‘Where is all the outrage?’ Where are the NGOs, where are the media? Probably not worth the trouble of sending somebody out there to ask a few questions, I guess. But then, that might have an adverse effect on the whole deal, might it not?
|During the rainy season|