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Evictions dominate UN review agenda

Evictions dominate UN review agenda

A UN body has asked the Cambodian government to account for continuing human rights violations, including the recent and pending evictions of poor communities in Phnom Penh.

During a review session Tuesday in Geneva, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights requested that the government detail what it was doing to ensure the rights of evictees, a civil society representative present at the session said.

According to the representative, the committee asked specifically about the situation at Boeung Kak lake, Dey Krahorm, Borei Keila and other poor urban communities where thousands of people have been recently uprooted by development projects.

The 18-member committee is tasked with reviewing countries' adherence to the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which Cambodia ratified in 1992.

"We all know that the question of land, housing [and] evictions has enormous implications on other economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to education and health," said committee member Zdislaw Kedzia, adding that the compensation offered to evictees had so far been "unfair and unjust".

Virginia Bonoan-Dandan, from the Philippines, said she had visited the municipality's eviction relocation site at Andong village, in Phnom Penh's Dangkor district, describing the "sub-human conditions" at the site.

"I was shocked to see the people [at Andong] drinking from a dirty pond.... The children had boils; their skin was infected," she said.

"It really drives home the point ... Cambodia has lots of legislation, good legislation, but it is not being implemented."

Article 11 of the ICESCR recognises the universal right "to an adequate standard of living ...  including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions".

Sun Suon, Cambodia's ambassador to the United Nations and lone delegate at the session, responded by saying the government was trying to address land issues and that he would forward the committee's recommendations to Phnom Penh.

"The prime minister has acknowledged this problem, and he has called for land grabbers to be brought to justice," he told the committee.

But he also said the issue of land evictions had become a "political issue" requiring "further elaboration".

"Every year we have a meeting with donors and we discuss this issue, and we believe that this is the approach to dealing with [it]," he said.

The government's initial report to the committee, submitted in early January, claims Dey Krahorm and Borei Keila had been slated for a "land-sharing project" as part of an attempt to "improve 100 poor communities within five years".

"These projects help the communities to build houses on their legally owned land," the report said of the two communities.

"They can also request some more land which is left from sharing and some financial supports for house building."

A fortnight after the report was submitted, more than 100 families living at Dey Krahorm were violently evicted from their homes by police and officials working for local developer 7NG.

Residents at Borei Keila, including several dozen suffering from HIV/Aids, are also facing eviction.


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