The official theme of yesterday’s World Habitat Day was “the City and Climate Change”, but the about 1,000 people who attended the event to mark it at the capital’s Chenla Culture Centre were more alarmed about forced evictions in Phnom Penh than rising global temperatures.
They comprised residents of 42 communities who have already been evicted or are facing eviction. Staff from NGOs spoke about climate change and development, but one woman made the audience go silent with her account about the effects of forced evictions.
“My family is being torn apart,” 51-year-old Dol Chantha said. They were evicted from Dey Krahom in 2009 and from Sambok Chap in 2006, and last year they received their third eviction notice from the municipality, she said.
“My family’s living standard and my children’s education are being threatened. The stress is causing domestic violence and maybe divorce,” she said. Dol Chantha said she did not know the reason for the third eviction notice, but was clear about who she believed was to blame. “The development the government talks about is only in its mouth. They took the poor people’s land to sell and make money for their own pockets,” she said.
More than 2,000 families have been evicted in Phnom Penh since January, the Housing Rights Task Force said. Officials from Phnom Penh Municipality were invited to yesterday’s event but did not attend.
Deputy governor Pa Socheat Vong could not be reached for comment.