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'Progressive' land-share deal stymied by red tape

'Progressive' land-share deal stymied by red tape

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The Borei Keila "land share" scheme - Phnom Penh's so-called "progressive" urban

development - remains in trouble as rights groups accuse City Hall of reneging

on its agreement to house both owners and renters in apartment buildings built

by the private developer.

Children at the Borei Keila dumpsite, where authorities are threatening to move more than 100 families.

More than two months after bulldozers tore

through their homes, more than 100 families are still living in rubble and

facing the threat of eviction to a local dumpsite.

These evictees

include 25 families who were deemed eligible for apartments after an extensive

public hearing process conducted by City Hall, local authorities, UN Habitat and

human rights group Licadho.

Naly Pilorge, director of Licadho, said they

were concerned about the condition of the evicted families, particularly with

the onset of the rainy season.

"Conditions are unsanitary and unsafe,"

she said. "Flooding will make the conditions much worse - it's a recipe for

disaster."

Pilorge said immediate action must be taken "to ensure humane

living conditions for the evictees."

She said only three renting

families had been given apartments so far, and City Hall was failing to honor

its commitment to the remaining 25 families.

"Borei Keila is supposed to

be a model project, to show that it's possible to develop an inner-city area

while still respecting the housing needs of the urban poor," she said. "The

treatment of the renters is jeopardizing this, and tarnishing the reputation of

the municipality."

Under the initial 2003 agreement signed off by Prime

Minister Hun Sen, homeowners who were living "permanently" on the site and

renters who had been living in the settlement since 2000 were considered

eligible for apartments in 10 buildings constructed by the private developer.

The "land-sharing" project was hailed as "progressive" because renters

and owners were, for the first time, given the same rights.

The first

two buildings were opened March 23 in a highly publicized ribbon cutting

ceremony.

Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun told the Post on May 16 that he

was choosing 170 families to occupy the third building, but would not confirm if

any of the 25 eligible renting families would be given apartments.

Somethearith Din, a UN Habitat advisor to the municipality, said City

Hall was reviewing their original policy and had tightened the criteria for

eligibility.

"They have changed their mind. They did a review of the

first two apartment buildings and saw that some had been sold. Now they're

worried that if they give apartments to renters they might sell."

Din

said City Hall was also concerned about setting a precedent.

"They're

worried that if they give apartments to the renters for free they will have this

problem again and again," Din said. "They haven't refused to give apartments to

the renters, but they will give them to owners first."

Din said the

renters may have to wait until the ten apartment buildings were completed, which

could be at least another three years.

He said City Hall would provide

temporary shelter for the evictees, both at the current site and at the Borei

Keila dump site.

Another 23 renting families living with HIV/AIDS who

were moved to temporary shelter and denied access to the public hearing process

are also facing an uncertain future.

"We feel abandoned," Penh Sim, 47, a

resident said.

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