Phanimex director Suy Sophan, known for her close links to some of the country’s most powerful women and for controversies surrounding violent evictions at her company’s inner-city Borei Keila development, died aged 62 on Monday morning, the Cambodian Red Cross said.
A letter posted online by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s wife, Bun Rany, who is president of the Cambodian Red Cross, said Sophan died just before 8 a.m. Monday.
Sophan was a “beloved wife, mother and grandmother,” the letter said, as well as “an active philanthropist who always donated money to support the activities of the Cambodian Red Cross.”
According to Toul Kork district governor Ek Khun Doeun, Sophan’s family is preparing for a religious ceremony at her children’s home in Chbar Ampov district’s Veal Sbov commune.
Hun Sinath, one of Hun Sen’s sisters, expressed her condolences to Sophan’s family in a Facebook post on Monday morning. According to Sinath, Sophan had battled liver cancer over several months.
Sophan’s death sparked mixed reactions, including on Sinath’s Facebook post and from some who were victims of forced evictions at Sophan’s Borei Keila development in Phnom Penh.
Khieu Lai, a member of the evicted Borei Keila community, who now lives in Kandal province, said she could not forget the pain caused by Phanimex, which used heavy machinery to bulldoze people’s homes on January 3, 2012.
“We will never forget our pain, no matter if she lost her life, will never forget,” Lai said. “We suffer to this day.”
Phork Lina, another former Borei Keila resident, said it was hard for him and the people of the Borei Keila community to forgive.
“I do not think it is possible,” Lina said. “When it comes to forgiveness, we, Khmer people, only talk about this in terms of a family that made a small mistake in words. But if the act makes dozens of families — hundreds of families — suffer, it won’t be possible to give forgiveness. If we give forgiveness, people won’t fear sin.”
On January 3, 2012, Sophan’s Phanimex and Phnom Penh municipal authorities used bulldozers to raze the homes of hundreds of families in Borei Keila. Police used tear gas and live ammunition, resulting in injuries to at least 12 people, according to a statement from civil society groups at the time. Phanimex had promised to build 10 apartment buildings on the site for existing residents, but built only eight, leaving about 300 families in the lurch, the report says.
Human Rights Watch has previously noted the close ties between Sophan and Hun Sen’s wife Rany.
(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)