Thursday, December 31, 2009

Poor Cambodians face eviction under new law: report


A new law in Cambodia has given authorities legal grounds to seize private property for public development projects

PHNOM PENH — Hundreds of poor communities in the Cambodian capital face potential forced evictions after parliament this week passed a controversial law, rights groups warned Thursday.

Lawmakers on Tuesday voted through a law on expropriations which will give the authorities legal grounds to seize private property for public development projects in Cambodia.

The law still needs to be approved by the senate and promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni, but it has raised concerns from rights groups about a surge in forced evictions.

"The existence of a law on expropriation which was just recently passed... will create more negative effects on the poor people in the city," the rights groups said in a joint statement.

The statement said there were 410 vulnerable communities of urban poor in Phnom Penh, with 74 of them threatened with eviction.

"These (74) communities have already received notifications from the government authorities that ordered them to voluntarily move away from their homes with little compensations, the groups said.

The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, the Housing Rights Task Force, and the NGO Forum on Cambodia also said they had "deep concern about potential forced evictions of urban poor people from their communities in the near future".

The Cambodian government has faced mounting criticism for a spate of forced evictions throughout the country over the past few years at the hands of the army and police as land prices have risen.

Cambodia in September ended a World Bank-financed land-titling programme amid increasing property disputes and allegations of land-grabbing.

Land ownership is a controversial problem in Cambodia, where legal documents were destroyed under the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s and civil war that ended in 1998.

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