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US House passes B Kak bill

Boeung Kak lake land rights activist Yorm Bopha is swarmed by supporters and media at Phnom Penh’s municipal police station late last year after being released on bail.
Boeung Kak lake land rights activist Yorm Bopha is swarmed by supporters and media at Phnom Penh’s municipal police station late last year after being released on bail. Heng Chivoan

US House passes B Kak bill

A draft US law that would require the World Bank to regularly report to congress about the condition of families displaced or still living in the Boeung Kak lake area was approved Wednesday by the House of Representatives.

The bill includes language that specifically requires the World Bank’s executive director to give periodic reports to the US Congress about the bank’s progress in restoring the livelihoods of residents displaced due to failures in the bank-funded Land Management and Administration Project. The bill will now move to the Senate.

“On behalf of the Boeung Kak villagers, we are grateful to the US House of Representatives for deciding to put pressure on the World Bank to urge a solution for our community,” Boeung Kak activist Tep Vanny said last night.

The bill’s approval in the House is a victory for Boeung Kak residents and activists, said Eang Vuthy, executive director of rights group Equitable Cambodia. “This bill is clearly a benefit to … the community,” he said. “I think the US government has the intention to monitor this problem.”

Language in a previous draft version of the bill called for the World Bank to discontinue all funding in Cambodia until people displaced by the project are fully compensated or another amenable solution is reached, Vuthy said.

The World Bank stopped loaning to Cambodia in 2011, after an 18-month investigation into the government’s expulsion of Boeung Kak residents from their homes to make way for a large-scale development project carried out by a company headed by ruling party senator Lao Meng Khin.

Communications officer Saroeun Bou said yesterday that the World Bank was currently “undertaking public consultations with stakeholders to inform the development of the planned Interim Strategy Note (ISN) for the future partnership between Cambodia and the World Bank Group”.

In a joint statement released after the bill gained US House approval, David Pred, managing associate of Inclusive Development International, lauded it. “When the Bank’s management scrapped its remedial action plan and stopped reporting to the Board about it, they seemed to have thought they could brush the Boeung Kak case under the carpet and quietly go back to business as usual in Cambodia,” Pred said.

“Now they will need to think twice.”

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