UN Official Raises Alarm Over Tonle Bassac

In the wake of Wednesday’s riot at Tonle Bassac commune’s Village 14, a UN rapporteur on Friday urged the government to rethink its housing policy for the poor or risk turning Phnom Penh into an “apartheid city.”

Speaking to a news conference by telephone from Geneva, UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing Miloon Kothari also said that those removed from the village do not have to accept land at the relocation site 22 km outside the capital if they are unable to find work there.

“The situation at Tonle Bas­sac…is unacceptable according to international human rights standards in that the evictions have resulted in homelessness,” Koth­ari said.

Hundreds of club-wielding villagers pursued a private security guard on Wednesday, torched the deputy village chief’s house, tore down the village office and battered down a metal fence built by the Sour Srun company, which has bought the land.            .

“I do not think we should not look to a situation where Phnom Penh becomes a type of apartheid city where there are clear divisions between where the wealthy people live and where the poorer people live,” Kothari said.

“I think the kind of displacements that are taking place are pointing in that direction.”

He called on the municipality to open an immediate dialogue with NGOs and the villagers, and to allow the renters at Village 14 adequate shelter, sanitation and utilities while they wait for a proper solution.

He also urged Cam­bodia to adopt a national evictions act banning all evictions that leave citizens homeless and without fair compensation.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the government is solving the Tonle Bassac issue and denied Phnom Penh is becoming segregated.

Deputy Municipal Governor Pa Socheatvong said Kothari does not know what he is talking about. “We have the Land Law, is there a need for him to talk?” he added.

Related Stories

Latest News