Monday, July 11, 2011

Evicted residents protest at Cambodian groundbreaking

Jul 11, 2011
Source: Monsters and Critics

Phnom Penh - Cambodian officials broke ground Monday on a real estate project that human rights groups said has led to the illegal evictions of thousands of residents.

In a ceremony at Phnom Penh's Boeung Kak lake area, city Governor Kep Chuktema inaugurated construction on the project as dozens of affected residents gathered to protest on the opposite shore.

Most of lake has been filled with sand in preparation for the 133-hectare housing and commercial project being developed by a firm linked to a senator of the ruling Cambodian People's Party.

The World Bank admitted in March that its land-titling programme that ended in 2009 had failed thousands of Boeung Kak's residents who have been forcibly evicted over the past two years.

Few if any of the residents have been able to get title documents from local authorities.

Sia Phearum of the Housing Rights Task Force non-governnmental organization said about 1,000 families remained with those evicted now living at resettlement sites outside Phnom Penh.

He said many of those sites were far from schools, health clinics and job opportunities.

'We found that some people travelled back to Phnom Penh and others sold their flats to other people because it is far from their business,' he said. 'It's hard to live there.'

Those remaining at the lake face a threat of eviction after city officials last week rejected a proposal by residents calling for an on-site housing option. Sia Phearum said the government should work out a compromise with Boeung Kak residents, who he said are being left behind by Cambodia's recent development.

'I think that if the government has a strong will to solve the problem, they can do it,' he said. 'If we develop, we should develop for all.'

Cambodia's land tenure system was destroyed during decades of conflict. In recent years, land prices have risen sharply as the economy strengthened, and tens of thousands of people have been driven off their land by the powerful and well-connected.

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