From WITNESS partner LICADHO:
At 4 am this morning [July 17, 2009], dozens of armed police took up positions around Group 78 in order to enforce a municipal order that they dismantle their homes or be forcibly removed. This followed 53 families yesterday "agreeing" to the authorities' demand that they accept an offer of $8,000 compensation or their homes would be forcibly destroyed. Negotiations this morning with the remaining 7 families who had not "agreed" led to a final offer to them of up to $20,000 in compensation which they all accepted, except for one family whose home was destroyed against their will.
As the sun rose on Friday July 17, 2009, dawn bore witness to the heart wrenching sight of the homes of the Group 78 community being dismantled piece by piece.
LICADHO captured footage from Friday's eviction:
LICADHO and a coalition of NGOs in Cambodia issued a joint statement:
Joint civil society organizations strongly condemn the 3-years-long coercion campaign of Group 78 residents to leave their homes and land, culminating in this morning's final eviction of the area.
Over the years, Group 78 families were served with a number of eviction notices by local authorities while witnessing two violent forced eviction that took place in the same area, namely Dey Krahorm and Sambok Chap.
"Today is yet another black day for land rights in Cambodia," said LICADHO director Naly Pilorge. "Once more, some of Phnom Penh's poorest and most vulnerable residents have been forced off their land in return for grossly inadequate compensation."
"The eviction of Group 78 represents another violation of the basic human rights of the people of Cambodia." said Dan Nicholson, COHRE Coordinator. "This eviction will have a broad impact on the lives of those affected: it will make families poorer, jeopardize their physical and mental health, disturb children's education and make families more vulnerable to other violations of their human rights."
"The authorities cannot claim that what happened at Group 78 this morning, and over the past months and years, was 'voluntary' on the part of the residents," said Yeng Virak, CLEC Executive Director.
"The families of Group 78 were never given any real choice - they were just subjected to a campaign of intimidation and threats by the authorities, which lasted for years, in order to wear them down into submission."
"Invariably, the government claims that evictions such as that of Group 78 are necessary for so called 'development' of the country, but this is not about development for the people - it's development for the rich and powerful," said Naly Pilorge, LICADHO Director.
Civil society organizations welcome yesterday's public statement by the World Bank, Asia Development Bank, United Nations and other donors which called for a morotorium on involuntary evictions.
"We are glad to see that many of Cambodia's key donors now recognize the seriousness of the land situation and the consequences for poverty reduction and economic growth," said Mr. Ou Virak, Executive Director of CCHR. "The international community must continue to urge the government to rectify its disastrous land policies."
Amnesty International issued a press release on the eviction:
The forced eviction of 60 low-income families in central Phnom Penh on Thursday and Friday has been strongly condemned by Amnesty International.
The families dismantled their homes after three years of government harassment and intimidation, with no choice but to accept inadequate compensation rather than have their homes demolished.
"Amnesty International strongly condemns this forced eviction and the deeply flawed process that led to it," said Brittis Edman, Amnesty International's Cambodia researcher.
Before dawn on Friday, at least 70 security forces, some armed with guns and electronic batons, moved in and blocked off the area known as Group 78 where four remaining families were holding out, with human rights workers and journalists monitoring the situation. Dozens of hired workers demolished what was left of the dismantled houses. Within hours, the resisting families had agreed to leave.
The families in Group 78 had been living under the threat of forced evictions for three years, with the Cambodian authorities following none of the safeguards required under international law.
"Group 78 was clearly cut off from due process and denied justice. The Municipality of Phnom Penh made no attempts to properly consult with the affected community or explore any feasible alternative to eviction," said Brittis Edman. "This makes a mockery of the government's obligations to protect the right to housing."
For more informaition on the recent call by several countries, the UN, the World Bank and others to the Cambodian Government to halt all forced evictions, read Thursday's blog "Cambodia: Gov'ts and UN demand halt to forced evictions"
Over the past year, LICADHO has produced several video on forced evictions in Cambodia, including the communities of Borei Keila, Dey Krahorm, Group 78 and Boeung Kak Lake. Videos and information on each is on The Hub - including the shootings in Siem Reap Province - just follow the links - and please circulate this blog post.
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