Development and affected relocation must be a win-win situation for developers, resettlers and communities
- From: Chim <ChimS1@xxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 28 Jan 2009 04:28:14 -0800 (PST)
Getting relocations right
Written by SARAH WHYTE AND CHHAY CHANNYDA
Wednesday, 28 January 2009
Efforts to move residents from the site of a planned inner-city
development turned nasty last weekend as efforts to reach a solution
suitable to developer and evictees foundered
THE sudden blitz operation to evict residents from Phnom Penh's slum
community of Dey Krahorm in the early hours of Saturday morning has
refocused attention on development in Cambodia and the effect it has
on the people it inevitably displaces.
The eviction brought to an abrupt and violent halt ongoing
negotiations between private developer 7NG and local families that
dated back to 2005 when the company bought the central city site from
village leaders in what many contend was a shady deal signed and
delivered without community consent.
During the eviction operation, rights workers say some 140 families
that had held out against a compensation and relocation offer in hope
of a better deal were bundled onto trucks by police, many of them
armed, and removed to Damnak Trayoeng village some 16 kilometres from
Instead of the new life promised by the developer, most found empty
fields. Of the scores of families evicted, fewer than 30 were assigned
homes at the relocation site, where families that had earlier accepted
relocation were already trying to build a new community.
It doesn't need to be this way said Din Somethearith, a project
manager at the UN Human Settlements Program (UN- Habitat), pointing to
the resettlement of 128 families to Akphiwat Meanchey in 1999. "The
community leaders were able to choose the site themselves," he said.
"And the municipality brought the community to the site and they
prepared better living conditions."
Cambodia's laws and policies do not adequately address resettlement
However, he conceded it was a rare bright spot in the municipality's
relocation record. In recent years the government has drawn heavy and
repeated criticism from rights groups for what they say is a patent
lack of concern for the rights of residents. A 2008 report by the
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said many evictions
had been "carried out with excessive force, using armed police and
military police, resulting in injuries and the destruction of
"Many evicted families have been rendered homeless or relocated to
distant sites on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, which lack basic
services and are far removed from their usual livelihoods," the report
A rock and a hard place
Chean Dara, the project manager on the Happiness City development on
Phnom Penh's Chroy Changvar peninsula, in Russei Keo district, said he
had sympathy for both parties to the dispute.
"If our company faced the same problem as 7NG, we would not use any
violence against the evictees," he said. "We would offer good
compensation based on the current market value of the land.
"But if the evictees were unreasonable in their demands, we would be
forced to go to the government for help."
However, according to Brittis Edman, a Cambodia researcher with
Amnesty International, if a company does need to enlist the help of
the government, the government has an obligation as a state party to
the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to
protect the population against forced evictions.
Under the covenant, all alternatives must be explored in consultation
with those affected before any planned eviction, he explained in a
statement released Monday. Evictions may only occur if they do not
render individuals homeless or vulnerable to the violation of other
human rights. They also must occur in accordance with the law and in
conformity with international standards, including genuine
consultation with those affected, adequate notice and information on
the proposed eviction, and legal aid for those affected.
Unfortunately for developers, and communities in their way, there are
no laws or guidelines in place in Cambodia for compensating families
who lose their homes to new developments. "Cambodia's laws and
policies do not adequately address resettlement issues," Sim Samnang,
deputy director of the Resettlement Department at the Ministry of
Economy and Finance, told a workshop on involuntary resettlements last
week. "There is a need for a national resettlement policy," he said.
Such a policy is actually in existence, at least in draft form, where
it has been under consideration since 2006. Nhean Leng, undersecretary
of state at the Ministry of Economy and Finance and chairman of the
Inter-Ministerial Resettlement Committee, said the so-called
Expropriatory Law "to resolve socioeconomic impacts caused by
government development projects" will be in place in "the near
In the absence of legal guidance, Din Somethearith said the developer
needed to take responsibility for a peaceful and fair resolution to
"Both the private developers and government should work together in
facilitating relocations in Phnom Penh", he said. "It is the
developer's responsibility to think about the living conditions,
access to running water and well-being of the residents [they are
relocating] before concentrating on the profits of the development.
"There should be communication with the communities before, during and
after developments in Phnom Penh by the government and the
UN-Habitat launched an Urban Poverty Reduction Project in November
2000. At a conference in 2002, which was attended by more than 500
community representatives, the project developed a list of
recommendations on relocations, which it delivered to City Hall. The
recommendations included ensuring relocations were to nearby areas, or
that the land be shared.
Despite its suggestions, City Hall has still not developed national
guidelines to guide the relocation process. "The workshop has shown
what should happen and what should be considered when developing," Din
Somethearith said. However, in my opinion the government believes that
if it follows the guidelines for resettlement, it will lose money."
Sok Visal from the Urban Development Fund said land sharing, as
suggested by UN Habitat, was preferable to relocations. "The best way
[for relocations] is to put developments on site. By land sharing, a
compromise can be met between the people, government and proprietors
serving all interests," he said.
Sung Bonna, president of the National Valuers Association of Cambodia,
agreed, saying that neither relocating evictees to a new home nor
offering market-based compensation were suitable solutions. Given the
relatively high price of land in Cambodia relative to the potential
return on investment, being forced to pay current market value would
hamstring developers and lead to a halt in any new projects in the
He said a creative solution was needed to ensure existing residents
would be better off after development than they were previously. He
said that his recommendation to developers was that if they planned to
develop in inhabited areas that they set aside land on any development
site to house existing residents. "This is the best way for the
people," he said.
"They don't need to leave their residence and go far away and they can
continue to live and work in the city centre."
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