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Fresh evictions loom: NGOs

091231_03
Trucks are loaded as the last homes in the community known as Group 78 are dismantled in Phnom Penh earlier this year.

We do not displace people to make them live in anarchy.

SEVENTY-four communities in Phnom Penh have been earmarked for forced evictions in the near future – displacements that could potentially affect tens of thousands of people, a coalition of NGOs said Wednesday.

Out of 410 poor communities surveyed by rights workers in Phnom Penh, 74 have already received eviction notices, said Ny Chakrya, head of the monitoring section with local rights group Adhoc. The communities are spread across the capital, from 24 families in Chamkarmon’s Kor Bram, to small pockets of families dotted throughout other quarters.

“The government always uses the term ‘development’ to evict people from the city,” he said. “In most recent evictions, we never saw the government provide fair compensation to the people,” he said.

Far too often, advocates said, displaced people struggle in their new homes, with basic infrastructure lacking and few services available.

“Since there is no proper infrastructure for the evictees, their livelihoods are affected,” said Pen Rainsy, head of land rights and livelihood at the NGO Forum.

So far, 52 communities in the capital have been displaced from their land, he said.

Future evictions could affect thousands, said Sia Phirum, director of the Housing Rights Task Force. He said 70,000 people in Phnom Penh could face evictions in “the near future”, part of an estimated 150,000 nationwide.

The warning comes amid ongoing concern over the controversial draft Law on Expropriations, the first articles of which the National Assembly approved this week.

Rights groups contend that the draft law could be used to dispossess people with legitimate land claims.

In the capital, more than 100 families who have lived near Phnom Penh International Airport since the 1980s are facing eviction, with authorities accusing the residents of living on state-owned sidewalks. Part of the land is slated to become a public park.

A December 12 deadline to vacate the land has come and gone with little news, said Oum Mom, one of the residents.

“We are not living in an anarchic settlement,” she said. “But when authorities want to beautify the city, they accuse us of things like this.”

However, Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun defended government policies.

“Development is for all, not for any single group. We do it for the beauty of the city,” said Mann Chhoeun, who disputed warnings that the draft law would hurt residents.

“We do not displace people to make them live in anarchy,” Mann Chhoeun said.

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