Families: World Bank Wants B Kak Dispute Settled

Families from Phnom Penh’s embattled Boeng Kak neighborhood say the World Bank’s country manager told them Thursday he hoped to see their dispute settled by year’s end and that the Bank could start lending to Cambodia again in 2015—a claim the Bank denied.

The World Bank revealed in mid-2011 that it had frozen all new lending to Cambodia to protest the municipal government’s forced eviction of thousands of families from Boeng Kak to make way for a senator’s real estate project.

More than 600 Boeng Kak families who had yet to be evicted were given their long-awaited land titles, but about 50 residents still in negotiations with the city for titles of their own protested in front of the World Bank’s Phnom Penh office Thursday. They say the land the city is offering them is less than they deserve and want Bank officials present at any future negotiations they have with the city.

After meeting with World Bank country manager Alassane Sow, they said he gave no answer to their request but “he said he hoped the situation will return to the way it was in 2010. He hoped the Boeng Kak issue would be finished in 2014,” said Bouv Sorphea, one of the protesters who met with Mr. Sow.

“He also said that when Boeng Kak is solved he will be able to give loans to the government for the health sector and to help poor Cambodians.”

Contacted afterward, Mr. Sow flatly denied making any such remarks.

“I did not say any of that,” he said.

Mr. Sow said he listened to the protesters’ concerns and told them that his interest was to hear from both the families and the municipal government. Contacted again, Ms. Sorphea stood by her account of the meeting and added that Mr. Sow had instructed them not to speak with the media about their talk.

“He told us don’t speak with reporters about the meeting…because he is working closely with the [Phnom Penh] governor,” she said.

(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)

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