StatementCivil Society Groups Condemn Violent Eviction of Borei Keila Residents
January 3, 2012 - HRTF, CYN, IDEA, BABC, CLEC, BKLW, ACRP, CCFC, FADP, PLCN and LICADHO strongly condemns today's violent destruction of the homes of some 300 families living in Phnom Penh's Borei Keila settlement.
The destruction of these homes marks yet another sad turn for a development that was once promoted as a model alternative to the eviction and off-site relocation of the Phnom Penh's urban poor.
In early 2003, a "land-sharing" arrangement was proposed for Borei Keila, which allowed the well-connected construction company, Phanimex, to develop part of the area for commercial purposes while providing housing to the residents on the remaining land. Phanimex was obligated to build 10 apartment buildings on two hectares of land for the villagers in return for obtaining ownership of an additional 2.6 hectares for commercial development.
In April 2010, Phanimex unilaterally reneged on the agreement, however - with the approval of the government - and only constructed eight buildings. That left 300 Borei Keila families excluded from the original agreement - and still living in housing on the site. These were the homes that Phanimex representatives destroyed today.
"This is such a terrible situation for these families," said Teng Savoeun, CCFC Coordinator. "It is also a very sad way to start the new year.
"Clearly land-grabbing and forced eviction in Cambodia will not disappear in 2012, and the situation for people at risk of eviction will probably get worse." said Tep Vanny, BKLW member. "The government should be helping and protecting the people not assisting a company that does not respect its contractual agreement" she adds.
The demolition was carried out by Phanimex employees and paid workers alongside an excavator, which crushed houses before residents had the opportunity to clear out their belongings. The process was overseen by over 100 mixed police forces who arrested and detained eight community representatives, including one minor who were taken to the main police commissioner and three bodyguards who were taken to an unknown location. Police also fired tear gas and live ammunition on the residents of Borey Keila.
Human rights monitors on site witnessed workers using a jackhammer to break up a large rock surrounding a group of police officers, who then took the stones and threw those at residents. Some also attacked residents with sticks. At least 12 people were injured including one policeman, some seriously.
"This eviction shows once again the Cambodia's political and economic elite can operate with absolute impunity, without regard to the law," said Tim Malay, President of CYN. "There was a legally-binding contract that obligated Phanimex to build 10 buildings. They only built eight buildings. Instead of being forced to abide by the terms of the contract, they are allowed not only to destroy people's homes, but to do it with the assistance of government officials. This is so bad."
HRTF, CYN, IDEA, BABC, CLEC, BKLW, ACRP, CCFC, FADP, PLCN and LICADHO calls for Phanimex to honor its agreement to build 10 apartment buildings for Borei Keila residents, and for the government to ensure that construction takes place. The 11 civil society groups also call for an investigation into the excessive use of force by police officer's overseeing the demolition work at Borei Keila today.
For more information, please contact:
• Mr. Eang Vuthy, Program Manager of BABC, 012 791 700
• Mr. Chheng Sophors, Senior Monitor of LICADHO, 012 879 795