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Involuntary resettlement' law in the works: officials

Involuntary resettlement' law in the works: officials


Legislation proposed to provide national framework for resettlement and compensation of families displaced by government development projects.

Photo by:
Tracey Shelton

Residents of the Borei Keila community, the government's flagship resettlement project. Many communities are living under threat of eviction for both public and private development projects, but the weakness of the current legal framework means there is no uniformity in dealing with evictions.

GOVERNMENT officials are working on a national mechanism to guide the compensation of those who lose land or housing to state development projects, saying that a draft expropriatory law is set to come before the National Assembly later this year.

"Cambodia's laws and policies do not adequately address resettlement issues," said Sim Samnang, deputy director of the Resettlement Department at the Ministry of Economy and Finance at a Wednesday workshop on involuntary resettlements. "There is a need for a national resettlement policy."

He said that the law, now under review by the Council of Ministers, will help guide resettlement and compensation for those affected by major development projects, including the Japanese government-funded reconstruction of National Route 1 into Phnom Penh.

Sim Samnang said that a lack of national regulatory framework for housing resettlements means authorities have so far followed international donors' standards on the issue of involuntary resettlement resulting from the road project.

Key highway

The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has provided around US$80 million to expand a 56-kilometre stretch of National Route 1 linking Phnom Penh with a planned bridge over the Mekong at Neak Leung, according to a JICA presentation at Wednesday's workshop.

The construction, in its second phase, has affected 4,180 families so far, 285 of which have been resettled, the presentation showed, with phase three due to start next month.

Kazuhiro Yoneda, JICA's chief representative in Cambodia, said that during the study and implementation of the project, the problem of involuntary resettlements was a serious concern for officials.

"Involuntary resettlement becomes a bigger and bigger issue every day ... due to the weakness of the legal system," he said.

Nhean Leng, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Economy and Finance and chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Resettlement Committee, said around 8,000 roadside families would ultimately be affected by the road rehabilitation project, and that 4,000 had already been offered compensation, rejecting criticism.

"Law enforcement in Cambodia is still weak, so the majority of people do not understand our policy, which leads numbers of NGOs to incite people to file complaints," he said, adding that the law had been under consideration since 2006.

"In the near future, there will be a national mechanism to resolve socioeconomic impacts caused by government development projects."