Borei Keila, Cambodia

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The Borei Keila Agreement

The largest of the four land-sharing projects in Phnom Penh in the early 2000s was the Borei Keila neighbourhood. It became a model for the privately financed land-sharing approach in Cambodia. In September 2003, the Council of Ministers announced that Phan Imex Construction Company Ltd had been selected as the private partner in the project.

The government accepted a proposal from the company to divide the 4.6-hectare land concession into two parts: “community buildings” to re-house the existing residents of Borei Keila would be constructed on 2 hectares of the concession, while the remaining 2.6 hectares of the concession would be granted to the company for commercial development. The rest of the Borei Keila land area, amounting to 9.52 hectares, would revert to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. No public bidding process to select the developer for the Borei Keila project was ever held.

In 2003, the government granted Phanimex – owned by well-connected Cambodian businesswoman Suy Sophan — development rights to Borei Keila under a “land-sharing arrangement” to develop part of the area for commercial purposes.

Phanimex was obligated to build 10 apartment buildings on two hectares of land for the residents already living there in return for obtaining ownership of an additional 2.6 hectares for commercial development.  

In April 2010, Phanimex unilaterally reneged on the agreement, however — with the approval of the government — and only constructed eight buildings. That left 300 Borei Keila families excluded from the original agreement.

Borei Keila was catapulted into wider public consciousness when the remaining families were violently evicted from their homes in January 2012. In exchange for the extremely valuable city property they occupied, residents were given small payouts, or scanty plots of land in distantly located, poorly serviced relocation sites.  

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