Cambodia: UN experts call for halt to eviction of up to several thousand families

30 May 2006

United Nations human rights experts today called for a halt to evictions of up to several thousand families in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, as part of a plan to redevelop land claimed to be the property of a private company, where hundreds of families have already been rendered homeless.

“There are concerns that the authorities may resort to force to evict these families,” the two experts said in a statement on the operation in the Bassac river area where the families have been living since the early 1990s. “Moreover, allegations of intimidation, threats and corruption have marred the process of registration and resettlement of the persons affected by the eviction.”

They urged the Government and Phnom Penh Municipality to ensure that appropriate consultations take place with those affected, that no evictions result in homelessness and that every effort is made to prevent the use of force. They also called for compensation and rehabilitation, basic services in relocation sites and the possibility for the relocated people to earn a living.

“There are disturbing allegations that municipal authorities have intervened to stop non- governmental organizations (NGOs) from distributing tents and humanitarian aid to the families who had become homeless,” they said. “In some cases, security forces have allegedly pulled down tents and destroyed personal belongings.”

The experts are Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative on human rights defenders, Hina Jilani, and the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, Miloon Kothari.

They noted that several hundred evicted families now living in the open air face serious health risks, especially with the advent of the rainy season. While some have been offered relocation, the new site is far away from possible jobs, lacks basic services such as electricity and running water, and is reportedly prone to flooding.

They called for NGOs to be allowed to offer aid and protection to the families affected, that measures be adopted to ensure registration of those affected by the eviction and that monitoring of their relocation be carried out fairly and transparently.

So-called development-based evictions often contravene recognized human rights standards and affect the poorest, the socially and economically most vulnerable and marginalized people in society, the experts stressed.