Cambodians denounce World Bank-funded land grab

5 April 2011 | Guest comment

Excerpt of a February letter to the World Bank President from the League of Boeung Kak Women Struggling for Housing Rights

We are the residents of Boeung Kak in Sras Choc commune, Phnom Penh, Cambodia who submitted a complaint to the World Bank Inspection Panel in September 2009. Our land rights, including our right to register our land, were unfairly denied by the World Bank-financed land-titling project. Instead our land has been leased to a private company and we are being forcibly evicted from our homes. We know that we have the right to be protected from forced eviction under the World Bank policy on involuntary resettlement. However, this policy is not being respected. …

In Cambodia today, land-grabbing by powerful people is increasing all the time. … We are losing our land, our homes and our livelihoods. Our children are forced to drop out of school. We have no food security and our mental health is deteriorating. We cannot find justice at the courts, which only work for the rich and the powerful. When we try to protest, we are threatened, arrested, beaten and abused.

Every year, [Cambodia] receives more than one billion dollars in aid and loans from international banks and donors. But much of this aid is not reaching the poor. … We believe that the donors are a part of our problem when they fail to monitor their aid to ensure that it does not cause harm.

In Boeung Kak, … [f]or the past four years we have been living under the threat of forced eviction. In the last two years more than 2,000 families in our neighborhood have already been evicted. We have been intimidated by company security forces and local authorities, and we are concerned about our personal security. They threaten that our homes will be burned if we do not move. Our homes have been flooded by the company with sewage water and some have even been buried in sand. Even though we are the rightful owners of our homes and land, we have only been offered a small fraction of the market price. This is not enough for us to buy another house in the city. …

We have proposed a solution to this dispute. We are willing to share our land with the developer if the government will build us new housing onsite. We have asked the municipality of Phnom Penh to reserve 12 per cent of the leased area for this purpose. We have also asked the World Bank to support the government to make this plan possible. …

We call for accountability, not just for our Boeung Kak community, but for all the people suffering from land-grabbing and forced evictions throughout Cambodia. Justice for Boeung Kak is justice for all Cambodians!