The government has not abandoned those facing eviction because of property development, but it must walk a fine line between the needs of individuals and the needs of the country, an Interior Ministry official said Monday.
A balancing act is necessary to tackle the government’s main priority: poverty reduction, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said.
“To upgrade the livelihoods of the people we have to develop,” he said. “We should think of the global interest of the nation.”
Khieu Sopheak said the government often serves as a mediator between the private companies and residents and that if villagers don’t like the way negotiations go, they can always file a lawsuit against the firms.
“We have to balance the interests of the developers and residents,” he said. “But how can the authorities abandon the people?”
Last week, a UN rapporteur said the rash of land deals sweeping the country was worrisome and accused the government of leaving the fates of residents to the mercies of property developers.
Miloon Kothari, special rapporteur on housing rights and adequate housing to the UN Commission on Human Rights, also criticized individual companies—including the Mong Reththy Group, Canadia Bank and the Royal Group of companies—for their actions in several controversial land deals and development projects.
Mong Reththy said Sunday he was upset by Kothari’s comments.
“I have always declared my deals to the public,” he said. “I have tried my best to help the government and construct the new school buildings for students.”
He accused families of extortion and said his company does not have policies to relocate people “because we never think about relocating people, but whatever we have done is to help the country and government.”
Suy Sophan, director of Phanimex Co, also defended her company Monday, saying projects have always been publicly declared and are for the good of the nation.
“We always get criticism, but I don’t care because we have done nothing wrong with bribery or corruption,” she said.
Kith Meng, chairman of Royal Group, declined comment. Several Canadia Bank officials declined immediate comment but said they would respond with answers to e-mailed questions.