Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Phnom Penh’s slums swell in 2012

Phnom Penh’s slums swell in 2012

Phnom Penh’s slums swell in 2012

130219 03a
An elderly woman walks down a stairwell at a dilapidated Bassac apartment block, known locally as ‘The Building’, in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

The number of slum-dwellers in Phnom Penh grew by nearly 25 per cent last year to more than 100,000 people, according to a government report released yesterday.

By the end of the year, 105,771 people lived in informal settlements, compared with 85,807 at the start of 2012.

Slum locations — defined by the government as informal settlements erected on state public land — increased by eight to 511.

In total, just over 25,100 families reside in Phnom Penh’s slums.

The figures were published in the Phnom Penh Municipality’s annual report.

Buried amid statistics on crime and real estate and delivered without context, they hint at the rapidly changing dynamics of the Kingdom’s largest city and suggest city authorities may be ill-equipped to deal with the fallout.

A 2009 circular on resolving the city’s slum problems through relocation and compensation has been poorly applied, the report admits, causing “difficulties with the development of the city”.

Meanwhile, in spite of a heavy push to title the rural population, the initiative has all but passed over the capital, with a scant 864 titles issued during the entire year.

Observers have warned that a rapidly growing urban population, coupled with land insecurity, threaten to undermine stability.

Both the government report and widely publicised data from rights groups note that protests have risen markedly in the past few years.

As land disputes continue in rural areas, the lack of resolution will likely continue pushing migrants into the city, creating a feedback loop of disputes, says Nicolas Agostini, a technical adviser at the rights group Adhoc, which last week released its own report on land issues.

“For the coming years, we are afraid the problem can only get worse unless the government starts to take care of land tenure,” he says.

Although it is growing, Agostini points out that much of the capital’s slum population has been living on the land since before the Land Law was passed in 2001 — thus entitling them to possession rights.

Many of the residents of Thmor Kol village, an embattled community abutting the Phnom Penh International Airport, have been there for decades, representative Chray Nim says.

Others, like herself, bought property from previous owners through contracts that were signed off on by the same district authorities who now threaten them with eviction.

“Why, when we bought the land from each other, did the authorities sign the documents? Now they claim it is state public land and want to evict us and not compensate us,” she said.

“When people question why the government wants the land to expand the airport, why they refuse to give compensation, we hear no answer. So we continue to protest.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Chhay Channyda at [email protected]

Abby Seiff at [email protected]

MOST VIEWED

  • US imposes sanctions on Oknha Pheap and Kun Kim

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation expressed strong dismay on Monday over the designation of Cambodian tycoon Oknha Try Pheap and General Kun Kim under the US’ Global Magnitsky Act. “It is very disturbing when the public figures of a country become the

  • Mother, daughter killed in hotel fire

    The bodies of a mother and daughter were found locked in an embrace after they were killed in a hotel fire in Phnom Penh at around 3:30am on Wednesday at the Phkar Chhouk Tep 2 Hotel and Restaurant in Phsar Doeum Kor commune, in the capital’

  • EBA withdrawal a destruction of EU achievements, PM says

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the EU’s possible suspension of its Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement amounted to a destruction of its achievements in the Kingdom and the demise of the opposition group. Hun Sen made the remarks while addressing more than 6,700 students during

  • US told to refrain from interfering in Sokha case

    Senior Cambodian officials said on Thursday that the US can monitor Kem Sokha’s trial as it wishes but would not be allowed to interfere in court procedures. The point was made in response to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s comments on Wednesday

  • Europe expected to consider EBA efforts, impact

    The government said it expects the European Commission to consider its efforts to comply with the “Everything But Arms” (EBA) regulations and the impact on one million workers should access to the agreement be suspended in February. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

  • Sri Lanka’s LOLC Holdings plans to sell Cambodian unit

    LOLC Holdings Plc, Sri Lanka’s second-largest publicly traded company by revenue, plans to sell its 70 per cent stake in Prasac Microfinance Institution Ltd, which also counts Hong Kong’s Bank of East Asia Ltd. as a shareholder, LOLC deputy chairman Ishara Nanayakkara said. Nanayakkara