World Bank Rejects Meeting With Land Evictees

February 27, 2015

By:  , The Cambodia Daily, February  27, 2015

The World Bank has turned down a suggestion that it hold a meeting somewhere outside of Cambodia exclusively with families that have been forcibly evicted from their land before it decides whether to lift a current freeze on new lending to the country.

The Bank announced the freeze in August 2011 in response to the government’s refusal to issue land titles to families living in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak community, from which some 3,000 families—most of the neighborhood—were eventually evicted to make way for CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin’s real estate project.

The Bank is currently considering a new project in Cambodia that would effectively bring the freeze to an end and has announced plans to hold 11 meetings around the country with seven “key stakeholder groups.” But none of the groups includes the evictees themselves, the very group over whom the lending freeze was imposed.

In a February 3 letter to the Bank, U.S. lawyer Morton Sklar, working with local rights groups, asks it to schedule an additional meeting with evictees outside Cambodia so that they would feel free to speak their minds without fear of government intimidation.

In a February 20 reply obtained this week, World Bank country manager Alassane Sow tells Mr. Sklar that the Bank would be sticking to its original plans.

“All consultations will be held in Cambodia and meetings will be held with listed stakeholders as set forth in the consultation plan,” Mr. Sow says.

The reply provides no explanation for the Bank’s decision. Asked for one, World Bank country spokesman Bou Saroeun said Mr. Sow’s letter “speaks for itself.”

Reacting to the reply, Mr. Sklar said the Bank’s decision not to arrange a meeting with evictees was “a very perplexing and disturbing result.”

“[T]he World Bank’s own Inspection Panel report that served as the basis for the loan ban being imposed in 2011 listed the systemic land eviction problem as the main reason why the World Bank should not give additional support to the Cambodian government until reforms were made in the land eviction policies,” Mr. Sklar said.

Last year, the Bank said the meetings would start in late 2014 or early 2015, but it has yet to schedule a single one.

Rallying and marching to Hun Sen’s House, requesting for new installment of electricity

February 23, 2015

By:Sovann My, Sahrika  February 23, 2015

This morning, around 100 people from three different communities including SOS community, Boeung Kak Lake and Borei Keila community rallied together and marched to Hun Sen’s house in order to seek for his intervention on the new installment of electricity over their households.
See photos in actions as below:

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The Cost of Living

February 21, 2015

By: Michelle Vachon   , The Cambodia Daily, February  21, 2015

A sightseeing visit to Boeng Kak lake in mid-2008 by Swiss-Australian photographer Nicolas Axelrod turned into a seven-year project documenting forced evictions in Phnom Penh, as well as the city’s evolving landscape.

Having come to Phnom Penh from Bangkok to cover the national election in July of that year, Mr. Axelrod ended up settling in Cambodia and following members of communities evicted in the late 2000s and early 2010s, including Boeng Kak, Dey Krahorm, Borei Keila and Group 78.

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Residents flee a bulldozer as it moves rubble from homes destroyed during the forced eviction of Dey Krahorm residents in Phnom Penh in January 2009. (Nicolas Axelrod)


“I spent a week going every morning at 6:00 to Borei Keila because there was a rumor that they were going to evict the people from the green sheds,” the 32-year-old photographer said.

The sheds housed 50 families, each of which had a member with HIV/AIDS. They were eventually trucked kilometers out of town, making it impossible for them to earn a living as they had done—even precariously—in Phnom Penh.

“This development…it’s a normal transition for any city,” Mr. Axelrod said.

“The issue was the way it was done…. Had they really done a good job [with] the resettlement of these communities, it would have been a massive boost for the city because this would have given opportunities to people who previously didn’t have them.”

Mr. Axelrod has also documented development on eviction sites, Cambodian youth culture and the emergence of the middle class.

About 150 of the thousands of photos he has taken in the country will be featured in his book and e-book “Transitioning Cambodia,” set to be released in late April.

7 years of change: Documenting the transformation of Cambodia

February 17, 2015

By: Asian Correspondent Staff Feb 17, 2015 3:55PM UTC

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July 07, 2011 – Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A resident of Boeung Kak rows a wooden boat against a storm moving in over Phnom Penh. The new buildings of the Council of Ministers and the office of the Prime Minister can be seen in the background. © Nicolas Axelrod / Ruom

Words by Denise Hruby, images by Nicolas Axelrod of the RUOM Collective

With the first beams of sunlight, men and women would set out on wooden longboats, passing the reflection of their stilted homes onto the middle of Boeung Kak, a lake nestled in the heart of Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh.

Soon, their hand-made fishing nets would be filled with flapping fish, and their woven baskets would brim with morning glory. Little more is needed for a filling supper.

Most of the maps you’ll find of Phnom Penh will still show this vast body of water. Surrounded by the Council of Ministers, the Royal University and the offices of the Prime Minister, the community seemed a little out of place: Lacking electricity, clean drinking water and hygiene, it was the poor who had formed a close-knit community here.

If you’d visit the once vibrant area today, you’d find little more than sand. In 2008, a real estate company started to pump sand into the lake. A few years later, and the water was no more. Neither was the vibrant community of several thousand people that had called the lake home for decades.

That somebody would fill in a whole lake to erect high-rise buildings might seem ludicrous — but after acquiring the rights to develop the lake, that’s exactly what a real estate company did. With the economy growing at a flabbergasting average of 7.7 percent over the past 20 years, the need for development is inevitable.

After decades under the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime and ensuing civil war, the country’s middle class is growing, and so is consumerism. Cambodians are embracing this modernisation. The young now dress in fashionable clothes and munch on Belgium pralines before watching the newest 3D Hollywood blockbuster. Affluent families are moving into apartment buildings that feature gyms, pools, countless air condition units and a daily maid service. Even luxury carmakers like Porsche and Rolls Royce have opened dealerships in the capital Phnom Penh.

Countless opportunities exist for investors, but critics say that rapid development has made the rich richer, and the poor poorer. The majority of the population is left out.

For the hundreds of families that were violently evicted from their homes in the city center, development meant that they were relocated to barren plots of land. Schools, health-care centers, markets or any income opportunity were out of reach. The ones who fought for their land were violently suppressed, driven out of their homes with tear gas and water canons.

Today, their once poor but lively communities have been replaced with sterile real estate projects.
In Cambodia, development has been happening fast – but with little regard for collateral damage.

Transitioning Cambodia is the first photo book that will showcase these rapid developments in modern-day Cambodia, it’s changing landscapes and society.
 The Ruom Collective is currently running a crowd funding project to distribute the photo book in pre-sale throughIndiegogo

The gallery below illustrates the dramatic change that has taken place in Cambodia over the past number of years (hover over images for captions):

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Protesters Blocked From Marching to Freedom Park

February 6, 2015

By: Mech Dara  , The Cambodia Daily, February  06, 2015

Government security guards and riot police Thursday blocked about 50 demonstrators from marching to Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park to protest for the release of 19 imprisoned anti-eviction activists, monks and opposition CNRP figures.

The protesters, which included members of the city’s embattled Boeng Kak and Borei Keila communities, planned to rally at Freedom Park before delivering a petition to the National Assembly, and gathered outside the US Embassy at about 9:45 am before marching to the park.

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A protester holds up a sign calling for the release of 19 jailed activists outside the National Assembly on Thursday. (Siv Channa / The Cambodia Daily)

But they were stopped at nearby Wat Phnom by a roughly equal number of Daun Penh district security guards and riot police.

“We will not allow you to march, as City Hall has not given you permission,” district security chief Kim Vutha told the group, adding that they would have to ride tuk-tuks to the National Assembly.

The demonstrators agreed, and successfully delivered their petition to both the National Assembly and Royal Palace before returning home.

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said any future attempts by the group to protest would be prevented.


Rights Groups Ask World Bank to Hold Meeting With Evictees

February 5, 2015

By:ZSOMBOR PETER  , The Cambodia Daily, February  05, 2015

Rights groups have asked the World Bank to schedule a “special meeting” with evictees before deciding whether to lift a freeze on new loans to Cambodia, and to hold it in Thailand so that participants can speak their minds without fear of reprisal from the Cambodian government.

In mid-2011, the World Bank announced that it had suspended all new lending to the country in protest over mass evictions in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak neighborhood, where the government had refused to hand out land titles under a now-defunct project the bank was funding. Some 3,000 families—most of the neighborhood—had been evicted by then and the bank said it would start lending again only after the government and Boeng Kak residents reached an unspecified “agreement.”

Though the government has yet to provide what many of the evictees consider fair compensation, the bank announced in August that it was contemplating a new $25-million project that would effectively end the funding freeze if approved. The bank said it would first hold 11 face-to-face meetings with various groups around the country in late 2014 or early 2015, but has yet to schedule a single one.

In a letter sent Tuesday to World Bank Regional Director for Southeast Asia Ulrich Zachau, U.S. lawyer Morton Sklar, who is working with several Cambodian NGOs on behalf of the evictees, argues that the bank’s plans for the meetings miss the mark.

The seven “key stakeholder groups” the bank plans to meet with include representatives from the government, private companies, NGOs and “youth.” Not one of the groups includes the evictees themselves.

The bank’s plan, Mr. Sklar writes, “appears to be so general in nature, and have such wide scope, that it will not be able to provide adequate focus on the land eviction issue [which] was the reason why the ban on loans was imposed in the first place.”

To give the evictees the voice he says they deserve, Mr. Sklar asks the bank to schedule a meeting just for them, either in late March or mid-April. And given the government’s ongoing persecution of its critics—including the one-year prison sentences handed down to 11 anti-eviction activists last year for protest-related charges—he asks that the meeting take place in Thailand.

“Several representatives of the leaders of the land eviction protests have expressed concerns that if they openly express their views within Cambodia as objecting to the issuance of World Bank loans to the Cambodian government, they will be subject to reprisals similar to those that were most recently applied to the 11 protest leaders,” he says.

Mr. Zachau’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Bou Saroeun, spokesman for the World Bank’s Cambodia office, declined to comment on the letter and referred to a statement the bank issued on November 17 that addresses none of the issues raised in the letter.

Cobra Clan Dad Asked to ‘Clarify’ Complaint

February 3, 2015

By: Hay Pisey  , The Cambodia Daily, February  03, 2015

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has invited the patriarch of a family locked in a land dispute with real estate tycoon Khun Sear to “clarify” his complaint against four officials he claims conspired to sell his home in Boeng Kak I commune without his consent, a court official said Monday.

Ly Sreang Kheng, 59, and his daughter, Ly Searminh, 24, who remains in prison, are facing charges of using violence against a property owner in relation to the dispute. Mr. Sreang Kheng said his complaint concerns former Phnom Penh governor Kep Chuktema and the district and commune chiefs he blames for selling his land.

“They conspired to sell my land without telling us,” he said.

Mr. Chuktema, asked Monday about his involvement in the case, dodged the question.

“Now the freedom of our country is unlimited; [People can] file a complaint about whoever, “he said.

Boeng Kak I commune chief Vith Darith, who is named in the complaint, said he “does not have right to sell” the land in question. Deputy prosecutor Meas Chanpiseth said the officials would be invited to the court after the plaintiff appears.



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