National and regional resettlement experts met in Phnom Penh Monday to address legal resolution and policy for the thousands of Cambodians left without property in the wake of giant development projects.
Around 100 participants from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos and Vietnam, made up of government officials, non-governmental agencies, development partners and World Bank resettlement experts, met for the first day of a weeklong conference, to exchange experiences and compose legal measures and policies.
“Involuntary resettlement associated with development projects – both in public and private sectors–present presents certain risks. For example, people lose theirs land, homes, jobs, income sources and generally their way of life,” said Arjun Goswami, Cambodia’s World Bank representative. “In Phnom Penh, a recent effort to move residents from the site of a planned inner-city development is a case in point for private sector investment and development. Development projects can and have indeed in the past led to impoverishment of affected people. We all agree that impoverishment of people adversely affected by projects is unacceptable.”
Chhorn Sopheap, director of the resettlement department of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said more than 10 national mega projects had led to the loss and farming land and houses for people.
“But these effects will not have a full resolution yet because of the lack of policy, legal measures and experience,” he said. “Involuntary resettlement needs to be properly implemented under a clear policy through appropriate legal principles and procedures, to ensure all affected people are better off, or at least in the same condition, as before the project.”
Am Sam Ath, Licadho chief of investigation, said in the last few years, giant development projects caused some 10,000 Cambodian families to lose nearly 10,000 hectares of farmland and thousands of houses, particularly in Phnom Penh and the provinces of Koh Kong, Mondolkiri, Kratie, Stung Treng, Rattanakkiri and Kompong Cham.