At least 120,000 people have been evicted or displaced from their homes in Phnom Penh since 1990, and the actual number could be even higher, according to a report released Tuesday by a local housing rights organization.
Hallam Goad, an adviser at the Sahmakum Teang Tnaut organization, said the 120,000 figure was compiled from a variety of sources, including the media, human rights groups and the local office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights.
The report starts in 1990 because that was the earliest time from which reports on evictions were available, Mr Goad said, adding that he hopes others will now come forward and add missing eviction numbers to the total.
“We haven’t done deep analysis, and hopefully people will add to it,” he said. “We put in all of the numbers we found.”
According to the organization, from 1990 to 1996, fewer than 4,000 families were evicted in the capital. Between 1998 and 2003, 9,216 families were displaced and from 2004 to March this year, the number of families evicted is almost 11,500.
The organization estimated that in each of the almost 24,000 evicted or displaced families since 1990 there were at least five family members.
Mr Goad said the increase in eviction cases mirrors the rise in the value of land during the intervening years.
The largest single eviction, according to the Sahmakum report, was 3,631 families from Tonle Bassac commune who were evicted in 2001. Other large evictions include the 2006 eviction of Sambok Chap, which resulted in nearly 3,000 families displaced, while 1,465 families were moved out of Dey Krahorm community in 2006, while the remaining 152 families were moved out in January.
“It just confirms what everyone knows already,” Mr Goad said, adding that the report was started as part of a research project for the UN rights office in Phnom Penh and although the commission decided not to publish the findings, it has given Sahmakum permission to use the data.
Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun declined to comment on the report Wednesday.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Reap said that the number of people evicted from the capital was “unclear” but those that have been moved were making way for development and investment.
“Evictions all have reasons for the development of the city or in accordance with the demands of local and foreign investors. Normally, developments always have an impact,” Cheam Yeap said by telephone.
In December 2008, Cambodia submitted a report to the UN committee on economic social and cultural rights that stated all such rights were protected. It highlighted the government’s policy of relocating the families at Dey Krahorm as an example of respecting human rights.
“The Royal Government of Cambodia has agreed to improve 100 poor communities within 5 years by collecting and managing a total statistic of 569 communities among which 464 communities have been improved,” the report stated.
“Phnom Penh municipality and its partners are in the commitment to try to find solutions for the poor people facing residential problems,” it added.
Amnesty International submitted its own report for review by the UN about the number of evictions in Cambodia stating: “This rise [in forced evictions] should be seen as a consequence for the lack of rule of law, a seriously stunted process of legal and judicial reform and endemic corruption.”
(Additional reporting by Prak Chan Thul)