World Bank Urged to Help Boeng Kak Families

A group of local and international NGOs are urging the World Bank to include a program for helping the thousands of families evicted from Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak neighborhood as part of the plan to start funding new projects in Cambodia.

The Bank put a hold on all new lending to the country in 2011 in protest of the government’s forced eviction of some 3,000 families from around Boeng Kak lake to make way for a ruling-party senator’s high-end real estate project. At the time, the Bank said it would not lift the lending freeze until the government and residents reached an agreement.

But residents and rights groups are worried that lending will soon resume without the requisite agreement, now that the Bank has wrapped up a series of meetings in preparation for an Interim Strategy Note (ISN), a plan for reengaging with a given country.

“We…seek assurances from you that the ISN will include a strategy for dealing with outstanding grievances of the Boeng Kak families, as per the Bank’s public commitment,” the NGOs said in a joint letter dated Friday.

“While some grievances have been addressed through the issuance of titles to remaining families…throughout these years thousands of families have continued to face tenure insecurity or battled the daily hardships caused by their displacement.”

The letter was signed by 15 local NGOs, including the NGO Forum and the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia, which together count hundreds of non-government groups as members, and another 28 NGOs from abroad.

The Bank did not reply to a request for comment.

The families evicted from Boeng Kak were offered a choice between an $8,500 cash payout or an apartment on Phnom Penh’s outskirts, but the families and rights groups say both options fell far short of the value of the land they were forced to leave.

The World Bank has admitted that its own failures in designing and carrying out a now-defunct land titling project contributed to the eviction of the Boeng Kak families, but has done nothing to help the evicted families to date.

In late June and early July, the Bank held a series of meetings with government officials, lawmakers, businessmen and NGOs to gather input for its strategy note, which aims to lay out the Bank’s funding priorities over the next two to three years.

Rights groups have faulted the Bank for not scheduling any of the meetings with the families from Boeng Kak and elsewhere evicted as a consequence of its projects.

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