‘Drug nest’ houses torn down
Phnom Penh officials have ordered residents of the Trapaing Chhuk area – a notorious drug haven according to police – to take down all partitions in homes due to claims that rooms have been created explicitly for drug use and gambling.
Sen Sok district governor Pel Kosal told house owners in group 10 and 11 within Borey Kamakor village to dismantle their homes and any apartments after police allegedly found they were being used for illicit purposes.
“In case you [house owners] do not implement this, Sen Sok district authorities will take legal action and dismantle houses and rented rooms without any responsibility for the damage, loss of property or equipment,” Mr. Kosal said, adding that the house owners needed to remove partitions and tear down walls themselves before Saturday.
The move comes after police officials were criticized by Interior Minister Sar Kheng for not taking a hard enough stance on the area, which for years has served as a hotspot for drugs, crime and violence. He told them to eliminate the “drug nest” in one month.
Trapaing Chhuk, often referred to as a slum, is populated by hundreds of homes made of wood, built above a small lake. Loads of garbage line the water and land under the homes, which are often split in half or into thirds using easily removable walls and partitions.
One day after the announcement, some of the houses were dismantled by owners, while 22 people were arrested and two small packages of unidentified drugs were found.
District Deputy Governor Hor Veasna told Khmer Times at the scene yesterday that authorities have invited house owners to explain the construction of their homes voluntarily. After surveying the area, they found a total of 109 rooms for rent, 101 of which they suspected of being used for drugs and gambling.
In the end, 73 rooms have been slated for removal, and police are working to dismantle them.
“Until now, there are 15 houses which owners agreed to remove and tear down themselves,” he said. “The first thing we have to do is break the drug nest.”
Mr. Veasna added that 43 families lived in the 73 destroyed rooms and were not compensated for their loss because of the illicit activity police claim was occurring there.
“We would not give any compensation for this removal. The authority used soft action and we did not punish them because they provided locations for where crimes were committed,” he said.
Police also asked house owners to tear down any false walls or floors because they routinely found drug users and sellers hiding in between and beneath them.
They said they may even remove the entry bridge to Trapaing Chhuk if they continue to find more and more drug activity around and under it.
District Police Chief Colonel Mak Hong said authorities will continue to announce the plan to local residents.
“For one month, we will do our best to make this village normal, including security and social order,” he said.
Despite the upheaval and refusal by police to pay house owners for their destroyed property, 35-year-old Tim Sinean said she supported the action as the area had become so drug and crime infested in recent years that she was forced to move away with her children.
She kept her business in the area and plans to move back.
“I rent a room for $80 per month where I sell rice and food,” she told Khmer Times as she smashed a hammer against a partition in her home.
“I am so happy for this crackdown because I can come back to live in my house. I left this place because it was full of drugs and gambling. I worry about my young children, especially my daughters.”
Ms. Sinean said she hoped police would continue their crackdown on drug users and traffickers to truly give the village a fresh start.
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