Boeung Kak Open Letter to World Bank President Kim

Open letter to World Bank President Jim Kim

May 9, 2013


Ulrich Zachau, Director of Strategy and Operations in East Asia and Pacific
Annette Dixon, Country Director for Southeast Asia
Alassane Sow,  Country Manager for Cambodia


Dear President Kim,

We are 364 families of the Boeung Kak community. We used to live and work around the lake, which is located in central Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In 2007, our lands were leased to Shukaku Inc., owned by the ruling party senator Lao Meng Khim. We were subsequently threatened with forced eviction, and when we resisted, we faced several years of threats and intimidation, as well as intentional flooding of our homes, making them uninhabitable. As a result, we had no option but to accept the compensation offered – either US$8,500 or a plot at a relocation site – and leave our homes of many years.

Since then, we have become impoverished. The monetary compensation some of us accepted was inadequate for rebuilding our lives in Phnom Penh. Some families consequently migrated to the countryside, while some migrated abroad. Others took the compensation of garage-like housing in Damnak Troyung relocation site, some 25km from Boeung Kak; the consequent loss of employment has forced us to live apart from our families and loved ones, and many of our children have been forced to drop out of school. Further others rent sub-standard housing closer to the city, spending hard-earned money on rent with little security of tenure. At least two families were swindled into buying plots of land from which they are now facing eviction.

We believe the World Bank has a responsibility to address our situation. In our 2009 complaint to the Bank’s Inspection Panel for the Bank’s role in the Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP) in Cambodia, we maintained that the Bank had breached its operational policies by failing to adequately supervise the Project, as a result of which we faced forced eviction. The Inspection Panel found in favour of our claim, and Bank Management subsequently committed to “[w]orking with the Government and Development Partners towards ensuring that the communities who filed the Request will be supported in a way consistent with the Resettlement Policy Framework.”

We are still waiting for that support. When the World Bank froze all new lending to Cambodia after the Cambodian Government refused to cooperate to improve our situation, the Government responded by awarding 12.44ha of land to the people of Boeung Kak. This was an important step towards resolving the Boeung Kak dispute, but it was solution for only those 650 or so households remaining in the area – that’s only 15% of the 4,200 families affected.

We believe the World Bank has a responsibility towards all of Boeung Kak’s residents, both current and former. At the time we left the area we had no other choice: our houses were covered in water and we were regularly harassed and intimidated. We did not leave voluntarily.

The World Bank has recently indicated that it intends to re-engage in Cambodia. Our message to the Bank is this: no re-engagement without remedial action. The situation has not been resolved for 85% of the affected people and the “concrete actions to redress harm to communities that were evicted and the ones that face involuntary resettlement”, as demanded by the Inspection Panel, remain untaken.

Yours Sincerely,

Representatives of the former residents of Boeung Kak lake


In February 2007, the Municipality of Phnom Penh granted a 99-year lease to the private developer Shukaku Inc. over a 133-hectare property covering the nine villages in the Boeung Kak area and the lake. The lease agreement usurped the land rights of Boeung Kak residents and threatened its estimated 20,000 residents with forced eviction. In September 2009, community representatives submitted a complaint to the World Bank Inspection Panel, alleging that the World Bank breached its operational policies by failing to adequately supervise the Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP). Despite many households having strong evidence to prove their legal rights to the land, Boeung Kak residents were excluded from the titling system when land registration was carried out in their neighborhood in 2006. Shortly thereafter, the Cambodian Government granted the Boeung Kak lease to Shukaku, and the 4000 families residing in the area were suddenly classified as illegal squatters on State-owned land. In addition to being unfairly denied title en masse, residents were also denied the protection of the LMAP Resettlement Policy Framework (RPF), which established a fair process for resettlement and compensation of people found to be residing on State land, in accordance with World Bank social safeguards.

The Inspection Panel found in favor of the Boeung Kak community’s claim that non-compliance with Bank safeguard policies in the design, implementation and supervision of LMAP contributed to the harms that they had suffered. Accordingly, Bank Management made a number of commitments to attempt to address harms suffered. Specifically, it committed to “[w]orking with the Government and Development Partners towards ensuring that the communities who filed the Request will be supported in a way consistent with the Resettlement Policy Framework.” Further, Management pledged to “continue to pursue actions so that people can benefit from a set of protection measures in line with what they would have received under the RPF,” including the possibility of using alternative World Bank funding mechanisms.

The Cambodian government, however, showed no willingness to cooperate with the Bank on these remedial actions. In turn, Bank Management informed the Government that it would freeze all new lending to Cambodia and would not resume lending until there was a satisfactory resolution of the Boeung Kak case.

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