THE Council of Ministers has issued a letter of clarification in response to charges by human rights groups that the government’s evictions of urban poor communities has violated international legal standards for involuntary resettlement.
Under the Kingdom’s 2001 Land Law, the letter states, no one can claim ownership of public land owned by the state, meaning that recent sites of forced eviction in the capital were “illegal constructions”.
“Actions taken by the government against illegal constructions conform to our philosophy of development, which tries to resolve such disputes through the direct participation of these poor communities alongside all the other parties involved,” the letter states.
“Phnom Penh authorities, in cooperation with partnership organisations, have tried to resolve illegal construction issues in more than 300 of the 569 communities in Phnom Penh municipality.”
The letter came after World Habitat Day on Monday, when civil society groups criticised the government’s eviction of urban poor, including the city’s Dey Krahorm and Group 78 communities.
Chan Soveth, a programme officer for rights group Adhoc, dismissed the Council’s response, saying that human rights groups had clear grounds to condemn the government: the confiscation of public land on behalf of private interests.
“We are not just criticising; we want to take real issue with the state agents who are responsible for the forced evictions because this eviction affected thousands of people’s rights,” he said.
“If they had evicted people in order to clear land for public property, we wouldn’t oppose them, but they are giving the confiscated land to private developers.”
According to local housing rights group Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, more than 120,000 Phnom Penh residents – approximately one in 10 – have been victims of forced evictions since 1990.