Kicked out of their homes by force

by John Einar Sandvand on March 2, 2009

dey-3Together with her family, Soun Kasal (34) had lived in Dey Krahorm in Phnom Penh since 1995. A few weeks ago, in a matter of a few hours, their lives were turned upside down  as more than 150 families forcefully were evicted from the area where they had lived for so long time.

- It all happened so fast. They had guns and used tear gas. All we had time to take with us was our bed, a mirror, a few pillows and some water cans, Kasal told me.

Now they are left at a relocation site 20 kilometers outside Phnom Penh with only some plastic sheets as cover -and no proper facilities for water and toilet.

Ten thousands of people have been evicted from their homes in Cambodia over the last few years. Some have been forced to move because of large developments in the big cities. Others have experienced how powerful and well connected business people or  military officers suddenly have grabbed the land through shady deals with the government.

- In fact many of these people are IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons). Yet nobody uses that term as that would give them some rights under international conventions, says Manfred Hornung, legal advisor at the human rights organization Licadho.

Several human rights organizations consider land evictions one of the major problems facing Cambodia today. They point to the culture of legal impunity, in which courts are not independent and judges frequently will accept bribes from the powerful elite.

Few of the land evictions have been as dramatic as Dey Krahorm, an area close to the parliament in Phnom Penh which is now to be developed.

However, people had lived there since the mid-1980s and should have rights after the 2001 Land Law.

Not so in real life.

In the early mornings of January 24th a large contigent of armed police together with hundreds of workers hired by development corporation 7  NG arrived in Dey Krahorm. There was no warning – and the workers immediately started to take down the houses of the families.

Police even used tear gas to control the inhabitants.

- I was frightened. All I could think of was to bring my three children to safety, Soun Kasal told me.

She did not have the time to take with her anything but a few possessions. All the equipment she used for her small market stall was destroyed.

The 150 families were transported to the relocation site Damnak Trayeung about 20 kilometers outside of Phnom Penh and dumped at a parking space. No humanitarian help was offered by the 7 NG corporation.

Even when I visited the relocation site four weeks later, most people were sleeping with only plastic sheets as cover. They had not been offered any kind of facilities.

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Living conditions at the relocation site are very poor

Soun Kasal and the other evicted families were frustrated by the lack of help. They were also worried about how they would make an income. Also there are no schools for the children in the area.

What will happen to the evicted families is still not clear. Negotiations have been going on with the 7 NG corporation for a long time.  7 NG has been trying to force all of the families to accept new houses at the relocation site. Market stall owners have been offered 1 square meter (!!!) to set up at market stall in the new area.

The families don’t expect much anymore. Their great worry is how they will make a living.

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The evicted families partially live under open air in what resembles a refugee camp

Here are some articles for additional background information:

You can view video footage of the eviction here:

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