Human Rights Groups Assail Evictions From Mekong’s Bank

The forced eviction of more than 100 Phnom Penh families from Russei Keo district’s Chroy Chang­va commune Friday was roundly condemned over the weekend by human rights and housing NGOs.

More than 100 armed police and soldiers guarded the site along the banks of the Mekong River Friday as bulldozers leveled 132 homes. Officials have said that the evicted Cambodian families will be given plots at a site in Dangkao district.

On Saturday, the Cambodian Hu­man Rights Action Committee, a coalition of over 20 rights NGOs; NGO Forum on Cambodia; and the Housing Rights Task Force re­leased a joint statement calling the eviction a “serious abuse of human rights; in violation of the 1993 Constitution…and international hu­man rights laws.”

The statement criticizes the district authority and officers and soldiers on hand for preventing rights workers and journalists from monitoring the eviction, and claims workers hired to dismantle the homes looted residents’ belongings.

The statement de­mands that the government, and the Russei Keo district authority, eschew violence dur­ing evictions, give proper ad­vance warning of evictions and es­tablish a relocation site with adequate facilities prior to removing inhabitants.

Municipal Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun denied the accusations Sunday, and said most villagers volunteered to leave. The mun­icipality needed a place to develop for the Water Festival, he said.

He said the new location provided adequate infrastructure and that evictees would receive $1,000 loans that could be repaid in five years.

Chroy Changva Commune Chief Pich Saroeun said Sunday that the district authority had informed villagers three times since August of the move.

Kek Galabru, president of rights group Licadho, said Sunday that authorities have the right to develop land but that the relocation site in this instance is not as adequate as the authorities have made it out to be.

“The villagers were forced to move to a new location with no ap­propriate shelters, schools, hospitals or markets,” she said.


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