City Hall Wants World Bank, NGOs to Compensate Evicted Families

Representatives of some of the 3,000 families evicted from Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak neighborhood in recent years said Thursday that municipal government officials, who were ultimately responsible for the mass evictions, told them they would be inviting the World Bank and NGOs to help compensate them.

The 20 or so former Boeng Kak residents, who claim to represent more than 1,200 of the families who lost their homes when they were evicted by City Hall to make way for a CPP senator’s private real estate project, said municipal government cabinet chief Keut Chhe raised the idea of the World Bank and NGOs paying compensation during a meeting at City Hall.

“They told us they will partner with the World Bank to study and find a solution for us…but they do not know how they can help us yet,” said Sea Nareth, one of the women who met with Mr. Chhe and the other officials.

The World Bank has admitted that mistakes it made designing and carrying out a now-defunct land-titling project it was funding in Cambodia played a part in stripping the Boeng Kak families of their legal land rights. It has since complained, however, that its efforts to help the families have been blocked by a lack of cooperation from the government.

“We hope that they will find a solution for us because the World Bank and NGOs are involved in this dispute,” Ms. Nareth said.

Though the families were offered either an $8,500 cash payout or housing on the outskirts of the city, they say both fell far short of replacing the land they had lost through eviction.

Srey Touch, another evictee at Thursday’s meeting, said the government since November has been asking the families to fill out forms explaining what additional compensation they wanted. She said most of them want either more money or homes closer to the city, and at least as good as the ones they had lost.

Ms. Touch also said that city officials on Thursday offered them loans, which were flatly rejected.

“We cannot take the loans,” Ms. Touch said. “We have so much debt already [because of the evictions] and they want us to have more.”

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche confirmed that the government had been collecting information from evicted families, and that there would be a “workshop” on how to help the families, but he would not specify if the World Bank was invited.

“We have collected the forms from them and will handle them one by one,” he said. “We will hold a workshop and invite private partners and civil society to find a solution for the community.”

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