Too Soon to Issue New Loans, NGOs Tell World Bank

A group of NGOs on Monday told the World Bank to fix the land-rights problems surrounding its past projects in Cambodia before lifting a freeze on new lending to the country it imposed in 2011 to protest the mass eviction of Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak neighborhood.

The Bank eventually accepted some of the blame for the evictions and said it would not approve any new loans until the government and Boeng Kak residents reached an agreement.

Though that agreement has yet to arrive, the Bank is preparing to lift the freeze and is meeting with government officials, companies and NGOs for their input on how best to spend its future aid.

At a workshop for NGOs in Phnom Penh on Monday, the head of the NGO Forum, which represents nearly 100 non-governmental groups working in Cambodia, told the Bank that it should fix problems caused by its old projects before approving any new loans.

“The World Bank is the funder of those projects, so it needs to solve those problems first,” said Tek Vannara, repeating what he had told the Bank. “

We support the World Bank development of Cambodia, but the World Bank needs to meet some preconditions.”

He said the Bank’s flawed projects include the one that affected Boeng Kak, another that saw Vietnamese-owned rubber plantations grab land from farmers in Ratanakkiri province, and another that doled out infertile farmland to poor families.

Mr. Vannara said the Bank representatives at the workshop did not comment on his suggestion.

The Bank did not reply to a request for comment.

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