The Star Online
Friday July 17, 2009
PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - The World Bank has urged Cambodia's government to halt forced evictions from disputed land, which it said was threatening the livelihoods of thousands of urban dwellers.
About 150 families were evicted on Thursday and Friday by 70 armed police and dozens of demolition workers from a site along the Mekong river in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.
In a statement, the World Bank said a fair and transparent mechanism for resolving land disputes needed to be established.
"This has become a major problem in Phnom Penh and other fast growing cities in Cambodia -- creating uncertainty for, and putting at risk the livelihoods of, thousands of poor people."
Donors have in recent years injected up to $1 billion a year to fight poverty in Cambodia, where 35 percent of the country's 14 million people are living below the poverty line.
The World Bank said the authorities had failed to go through the proper process of negotiation with residents, which violated international norms and breached human rights laws.
Cambodia's government, which has been desperately wooing foreign investment and needs the donors at a time when its economy is shrinking, rejected the report and said those evicted had been offered adequate compensation.
"The government always has relocation and social safety networks in place ahead of removing the squatters," said government spokesman Khieu Kanharith.
"But these land-grab opportunists created these problems in the first place," he added.
Amnesty International has also pressed for an end to the evictions, saying families had rejected the state's compensation packages because they were deemed "unfair and inadequate".
Roeun Sareth, 49, who was evicted early on Friday, said his home was torn down after residents asked for more money.
"They turned us down when we negotiated for fair compensation," he said.