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EU letter critisises housing rights

A EUROPEAN Union human rights official last week issued a letter to Cambodia's ambassador to the body, criticising the government's record on housing rights.

Helene Flautre, chairperson of the EU Foreign Affair's Subcommittee on Human Rights, addressed the letter, dated March 3, to Cambodian ambassador Saphoeun Sun. In it, she said there was a lack of protections from evictions for Cambodians, especially for those living in poverty.

She pointed to Cambodia's legal obligation as a UN signatory to refrain from, and protect against, unjustifiable forced evictions.

"I would like to call on the Cambodian government to comply with international standards, to strengthen the legal framework and to protect and to guarantee due compensation to those affected," she said.   

She cited the violent removal in January of residents from Phnom Penh's Dey Krahorm community as an example of the vulnerability of Cambodians to unregulated development.

More than 1,000 residents lived in Dey Krahorm before old community leaders signed away the 3.6-hectare property in exchange for relocation houses. Land rights groups challenged the legality of the original contract and accused the city and developer of using intimidation tactics to force residents to accept the compensation deals offered.

Last month, a UN housing rights expert, Raquel Rolnik, condemned the Dey Krahorm eviction, calling it a "grave breach" of human rights and highlighting the "harassment, intimidation and criminalisation" of NGOs and lawyers working on housing rights issues. 

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