Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mass resettlement for squatters

Mass resettlement for squatters

Mass resettlement for squatters

THE municipal government plans to resettle more than 10,000 squatters in Phnom Penh

over the next five years as part of a development scheme to transform the city with

new roads, public housing and improved infrastructure.

Advisors at the city's planning department said the government intends to resettle

at least 100 squatter sites, involving anywhere between 50 to 4,000 families at each

site, every year starting in 2003. A UN settlement agency, UN-HABITAT, estimates

that at least 230,000 squatters live in Phnom Penh.

Chhay Rithisen, director of the city's Bureau of Urban Affairs, said the development

effort, part of a master plan being drafted, is one of the city's highest priorities.

He said the development includes two highways encircling the city to ease traffic

congestion and major new flood-control works. The major donors for the projects will

be the Japanese aid agency JICA, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

But the actual price tag of the city's ambitions is purely speculative, said Willy

Zannermann, who works on development projects with GTZ, the German aid agency, at

the Ministry of Land Management. He said the government's current financial straits

meant any project would be at least 80 percent donor-funded. That must change for

it to be successful, he said.

"It has to come from the private sector," Zannermann said. Any influx of

new development would require major financial and banking reforms, as well as a change

in the investment climate. "That's not in place yet," he said.

Rithisen said development efforts will not repeat mistakes of the past.

"We would not like to relocate people to [distant] sites, especially in suburban

areas," said Rithisen. "This is a new policy of the city.... We will implement

social land concessions. Land sharing also is one component of this policy."

The resettlement arrangements are designed to allow destitute families to remain

on land where they already live. Social land concessions would transfer plots of

vacant land to urban poor while other land could be divided between squatters and

private development. The move would give permanent legal status to residents.

This departs from previous efforts to move squatter communities-often to sites far

from Phnom Penh-which failed due to a lack of planning, job opportunities and basic

infrastructure.

The first three sites to be resettled, and possibly developed, will be Boray Kaila,

a complex near the Olympic Stadium built in the 1960s, the dilapidated apartment

buildings called Dai Krohom near the Russian Embassy and shantytowns along the railroad

tracks in Toul Kork district, Rithisen said. Although no specific proposals exist

for the areas, advisors to the project said public housing could be built on the

sites to make room for private development.

Anne Burlat, a French urban planning specialist with the city, said Phnom Penh had

reached a pivotal moment in its growth. Whether the capital evolved into a sprawling,

unsustainable city or a more functional, efficient urban area depended on the political

will to implement a master plan.

"[The focus] is not on reconstruction, it's development," Burlat said on

October 16 at the opening of an exhibit about Phnom Penh's development during the

last decade. The exhibit will be open at the Design Center next to Wat Phnom until

October 31.

Burlat said an integrated vision of the city's future is needed soon. She said the

population of Phnom Penh was expected to grow to almost three million people by 2020.

The city already has a population of 1.2 million people, almost half of whom live

on the outskirts of the city.

The crush of new residents could restrict Phnom Penh's ability to cope with problems

in the future and overwhelm the city's planning efforts.

"The bigger the city gets, the more difficult it will be to control the evolution

of the city," she said.

Ultimately, Burlat said, answers to Phnom Penh's problems are not confined within

its borders. As long as poor flee from poverty in the countryside, the capital faces

a chronic crisis.

"To solve the problem in the long term, we need a national policy to develop

the rest of the country," she said.

* Additional reporting by Matt Fox

MOST VIEWED

  • NY sisters inspired by Khmer heritage

    Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Cambodian-American sisters Edo and Eyen Chorm have always felt a deep affinity for their Cambodian heritage and roots. When the pair launched their own EdoEyen namesake jewellery brand in June, 2020, they leaned heavily into designs inspired by ancient Khmer

  • Cambodia records first Omicron community case

    The Ministry of Health on January 9 reported 30 new Covid-19 cases, 29 of which were imported and all were confirmed to be the Omicron variant. The ministry also reported 11 recoveries and no new deaths. Earlier on January 9, the ministry also announced that it had detected the Kingdom's

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • PM eyes Myanmar peace troika

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested that ASEAN member states establish a tripartite committee or diplomatic troika consisting of representatives from Cambodia, Brunei and Indonesia that would be tasked with mediating a ceasefire in Myanmar. The premier also requested that Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa

  • Kampot tourism quay ‘90% done’

    Construction on Kampot International Tourism Port – a 4ha quay in Teuk Chhou district about 6km west of Kampot town – has fallen off track, reaching 90 per cent completion, according to a senior Ministry of Tourism official last week. The project is now planned to be finished

  • Demining rat ‘hero’ Magawa dead at 8

    A landmine-hunting rat that was awarded a gold medal for heroism for clearing ordnance from the Cambodian countryside has died, his charity said on January 11. Magawa, a giant African pouched rat originally from Tanzania, helped clear mines from about 225,000sqm of land – the equivalent of 42