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Groups Call for Halt of Illegal Eviction

Rights groups joined more than 300 displaced residents on Monday to urge the government to punish those powerful officials and companies who violate residents’ rights through forced evictions, as they marked World Habitat Day.

Thousands of Cambodians have been displaced in development schemes in the capital and land grabs for agricultural business in the provinces, an ongoing problem that critics have warned is causing political instability.

“The government ought to end the illegal implementation in forced evictions and temporarily postpone all forced evictions until there is a judicial system for executing human rights and mechanisms for the monitoring of implementation, to ensure social responsibilities with transparency,” Ny Chakriya, chief of investigation for the rights group Adhoc, said. “The government ought to ensure that there is a legal resolution with effectiveness, justice, equity, and timeliness for the victims because of the violation of residence rights and land and natural resources.

“Furthermore, the government ought to end impunity for some people, including the government officials, military, police, individuals or companies who have joined in the activities of the violation of residence rights,” he said.

Am Sam Ath, head of the monitoring unit for the group Licadho said forced evictions became a serious problem after 2006, when “authorities and companies pressured people into leaving their land and houses through various means.”

Forced evictions create a “very far gap” between the interests of companies of citizens, he said. “So we’ve seen that the government or the authorities always provide more interest to companies over people.”

Be Pharum, a representative from the Boeung Kak community in Phnom Penh, which is being evicted to make way for a giant development project, said forced evictions brought “worry and fear” to people.

Loeuk Sambo, a former member of group 78, another displaced neighborhood, said it caused “negative affection and difficulties in the shortage in their livings.”

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the government did not encourage public servants, in or out of uniform, to violate rights and freedoms of citizens.

“No law allows any person to be above the law, and we are reforming the legal system and judiciary for land principles,” he said. “The offenders will face punishment and condemnation.”

Licadho’s Am Sam Ath said he had taken 13 cases of forced eviction in early 2009, particularly from development projects in Phnom Penh, compared to 10 cases the year before.