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World Bank panel interviews Boeung Kak villagers

A DELEGATION from the World Bank Inspection Panel, which is investigating whether the donor violated its own rules concerning a controversial land-titling scheme, has wrapped up its fact-finding visit to Cambodia, housing rights advocates said.

David Pred, executive director of the group Bridges Across Borders Cambodia, said the panel left Thursday after arriving last month.

Rights groups have filed a complaint on behalf of roughly 4,000 families facing eviction in Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak lake area, contending that the families were unfairly excluded from the government’s Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP), funded by the World Bank.

Residents say they were denied titles to their homes under LMAP after the government awarded a 99-year lease to a company tied to Lao Meng Khin, a senator with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. As a result, they say, hundreds of families have already been forced to move, and the remainder still face eviction.

“The bank must find a way to repair the harms suffered by the people of Boeung Kak,” Pred said in a statement.

Boeung Kak villagers met with the Inspection Panel delegation last week.

“We told them how the Boeung Kak development will impact our homes. The authorities accused us of living in slums on state property,” said Ing Navy, who said she blamed the World Bank for her predicament as well as the officials who leased the land on which she lived.

World Bank officials in Cambodia referred questions to the organisation’s inspection panel in Washington, which did not return requests for comment.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said the government welcomes the inspection panel’s queries, even if they may result in criticism.

“We consider them to be our partners. They have the right to do whatever they like,” he said.

The investigation is expected to last for several more months, said Pred, who expects the panel to submit its report in October and to give the World Bank six weeks to respond.

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