World Bank Meets Phnom Penh Governor, Boeng Kak Evictees

The World Bank on Thursday asked Phnom Penh municipal officials to do more to help the thousands of families the city evicted from the Boeng Kak neighborhood to make way for a CPP senator’s private real estate project, and is now waiting for a reply, according to anti-eviction activists.

Twelve representatives of the evicted community met with World Bank country manager Alassane Sow and regional director Ulrich Zachau on Thursday afternoon, shortly after the bank officials met with Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong.

Boeng Kak residents are fighting for land titles for about 40 families who have fought their eviction from the neighborhood, and for better compensation for the roughly 3,000 families who were evicted since 2008 in exchange for a $8,500 payout or alternative housing on the outskirts of the city.

Tep Vanny, one of the community representatives, said the World Bank officials raised their concerns with the governor.

“They told us they raised our issues with the government representatives and the governor, about the families who have not yet gotten their land titles and about those who already had to move out,” she said. “They said they would continue to work with the government to find a solution for us and they are waiting for a solution from the government.”

City officials declined to comment on their meeting with the World Bank. The meeting comes less than two weeks after, in a meeting with the Boeng Kak representatives, city officials said they expected the World Bank to help compensate the families they had evicted.

Housing rights groups say city officials acted illegally when it sold off most of the Boeng Kak neighborhood to CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin in 2007 for his private real estate venture because it did not give the families a chance to apply for land titles, which they were entitled to.

In 2011 the World Bank admitted that it had botched a land-titling project it was funding by not doing enough to ensure that the rights of families at Boeng Kak were protected. Later that year, the bank imposed a freeze on new lending to the Cambodian government because of the mass evictions from Boeng Kak, but said it could not do more to help the affected families because of a lack of cooperation from the government.

Ms. Vanny said the Boeng Kak representatives were glad the World Bank said the loan freeze was still in place, but added that it was not enough to force the government to take responsibility for its illegal actions.

“The World Bank is not trying enough and is too slow to help us because they only freeze their [the government’s] funds…. They should find other strategies to push the government to find a solution for us,” she said.

“The freeze has lasted a long time but the government still handles the problem slowly and it has not done much to help us.”

Mr. Sow, the World Bank country manager, said the meeting with the Boeng Kak families was only to listen to their concerns. He said he did not discuss his conversation with the Phnom Penh governor earlier that morning, however, and declined to comment on the meeting with Mr. Socheatvong.

(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)

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