Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Cambodia urged to stop evictions

Residents are being moved to new sites a long way from the centre

By Guy De Launey
BBC News, Phnom Penh
Monday, 11 February 2008

Human rights organisation Amnesty International has called for an end to forced evictions in Cambodia.

Thousands of families have already been moved from their homes in the centre of the capital Phnom Penh, and more evictions are set to follow.

The authorities say this is a necessary part of Cambodia's development.

But in its report Amnesty disputes this, and says there has been a lack of accountability and consultation with local communities.

Members of threatened communities from across Phnom Penh are fighting on, although their homes may soon be reduced to rubble.

They have held a series of meetings to express solidarity and plead for help from outsiders.
The site of the latest gathering illustrates the size of the challenge they are facing.

'Legal title'

Dey Krahom was once a vibrant slum community. Now there are empty spaces where some residents have given up and abandoned their homes.

The gaps are filled with rubble, razor wire and garbage. Bulldozers belonging to the property developers park nearby.

Many residents say they hold legal title to their land and that threats and intimidation are being used to force them to leave.

Brittis Edman from Amnesty International says developers should adopt a cooperative approach instead.

"There should be discussions with the communities before an eviction is decided and the best option would obviously be to develop while the community is here, and develop the community as it is."

But that seems unlikely to happen. The Phnom Penh authorities have said they are committed to developing the city in partnership with private companies.

So far, that has meant relocating residents to sites that are in most cases a long way from the city centre, while developers build high-end housing and shops.

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