Without warning, bulldozers enter Dey Krahorm

Regions: Cambodia

Issues: Shelter

Tags: Cambodia, Forced Eviction, housing, Licadho, Licadho Canada

 

Without immediate prior notice, bulldozers and police moved into Dey Krahorm community in Phnom Penh early morning on Saturday to raze the homes and forcibly remove its remaining residents. The eviction order given on 27 December had been suspended to allow for compensation negotiations among the city, the developer and the residents.

In this blog - see photos from Phnom Penh Post, Ka-set, blogger Jinja and read the NGO statement on the forced eviction of Dey Krahorm as well as a first-hand account from LICADHO Canada .   

Read my blog from Saturday for background information on the struggle in Dey Krahorm, Phnom Penh. Also, read in Saturday's Phnom Penh Post: City, developer demolish Dey Krahorm homes:

 

City, developer demolish Dey Krahorm homes 

Phnom Penh Post, 24 January 2009

(...)

Without any prior notification and with compensations deals outstanding for families remaining there, around 200 police “encircled” the community in the middle of the night and were followed later in the morning by more than 300 workers with bulldozers, said Chan Saveth of the rights group Adhoc.

Yeng Virak, executive director of Community Legal Education Centre, said he had entered the Dey Krahorm complex at 4am but was forced by police to leave by 6am.

“It’s not fair and it’s illegal. People have possession rights to the land and their compensation needs to be settled before they are removed,” Yeng Virak said. “In Phnom Penh, business interests come before the rights of the people. This is another example of economic development at all costs -- not equitable or sustainable development.”

David Pred, director of rights group Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia, said residents still have a civil complaint pending in an appeals court to cancel the land swap between the former community representative and 7NG that he said was patently invalid under the Land Law. 

(...)

“Once again the municipality has carried out a brutal eviction in the heart of Phnom Penh without any apparent plan for relocation or meeting the humanitarian needs of the evictees,” Pred said.

_______________________________ 

Coverage in independent online media site Ka-set: Land violences in Cambodia: Dey Krohom razed to the ground following a tough eviction.


©John Vink/ Magnum



©John Vink/ Magnum


©John Vink/ Magnum

 

 Ka-set also put together a slideshow of Saturday's forced eviction.  Click the photo below to enter the slideshow. 

Images by John Vink/ Magnum

©John Vink/ Magnum

_______________________________ 

 

Blogger Jinja in Cambodia has tons of photos and this video of the eviction:

 

 

 

_______________________________ 

Saturday 24 January, 2009

JOINT PRESS RELEASE

CIVIL SOCIETY GROUPS STRONGLY CONDEMN ILLEGAL EVICTION OF DEY KRAHORM | Phnom Penh, CAMBODIA ‐

We strongly condemn the forced eviction of Dey Krahorm residents which began at 6 a.m. on Saturday 24 January, 2009. This was carried out by over 300 police officers and up to 500 breakers hired by the private company 7NG. It is yet another example of the violent evictions taking place across Cambodia which are in danger of destabilizing the country.

Today’s eviction was marked by excessive use of force endangering the lives of Dey Krahorm residents, and resulting in over 18 injuries ‐ 5 of which were serious. It also saw the systematic destruction of private property, while the police and breakers hired by 7NG blocked attempts by human rights observers and the press to monitor and report on the event.

Further, the Dey Krahorm forced eviction resulted from an improper land transaction between so‐called “community representatives” and 7NG. The forced eviction therefore had no proper or clear legal basis, and has violated the possession rights of Dey Krahorm residents which
are guaranteed by the Constitution of Cambodia and Land Law 2001.

We urge the government to ensure that:

* affected families are given immediate humanitarian assistance,
including adequate food, water, shelter, sanitation, and medical
care;

* affected families are given just and fair compensation for the loss
of their property;
the illegal activities surrounding the eviction are properly
investigated and those responsible are held accountable;

*and
the trend of aggressive private interests overriding human rights
is immediately stopped.

Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF); ADHOC; LICADHO; CCHR; CLEC; Bridges Across Borders South East Asia (BABSEA); and Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE)

_______________________________ 


Here is a first-hand account from LICADHO Canada: 

Reliable sources called NGOs and village leaders around suppertime of the 23rd to warn that extreme forces were being deployed against Dey Krahorm early the following morn. Seven NGO monitors from five different orgs came into the community to keep watch through the night. Two more were stationed on the corner on the side. Channel four and four other freelance journalists [and friends of Dey Krahorm] also joined. At 2am, military forces blocked off the roads and we called out to our networks and media for help. By 5:30 another 25 NGOs [including Directors]and approximately 10 media forced their way on the inside or found ways to sneak in.

By 6am, approx 250 mixed armed forces and 300 armed breakers surrounded the village from all sides. Villagers made a barricade in the middle of the road as cameras were going off because of the shock of such an amazing show of brute force for 150 families. We knew as soon as the sun was high enough to be considered day, they were going to push forward. (A colleague) and I stood next to (a colleague) who held the camera. Our job was to witness and keep her and the footage protected. In the last moments, before all hell broke loose, I had a nervous conversation for myself. I really couldn’t believe that anything too bad could happen with so many witnesses, so many media, so many cameras, and right in the middle of the capital city. (...)

There was still a part of me that thought someone would stop it before ‘it’ happened because many local organisations were calling for help from the bigger powers that be since 2am. Even when the UN refused to pick up my phone calls, hope in humanity said some miracle was coming our way. It wasn’t true. The only miracle is that no one was killed.

A line of riot police with shields drawn started pushing down the road, with many more behind them and hundreds of breakers in the far rear. When the police front line hit the DK barricade, the police started striking at women who stood behind the barricade. Villagers started screaming and throwing rocks to force the police away from the women. That was the police’s plan all along, provocation until an act of violence against the police gives forces full right to attack. And attack they did. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowds of villagers, media and monitors with complete disregard to human life. The tear gas started fires which combines with the tear gas and burning tires. Dey Krahorm became a full-blown war zone. Massive bulldozers ripped the burning Pho tree and spirit house down first as all around police were forcing their way onto community lines. Next came the houses, bulldozing them while some were still inside.

Everything happened so fast! We were in the cross fire so we retreated to a hill where (a colleague) could have a wider look. We saw hell on earth. We saw that we were complete surrounded and out numbered. Police spotted us on the hill filming and started advancing
so we ran down towards LICADHO monitors to be protected in a bigger crowd. Everywhere we looked was chaos. Our walkie-talkies kept reporting violence and mayhem from all sides of the village. A Director threw her body between riot police with weapons drawn and women from
Dey Krahorm. It was the worst of nightmares because every moment was real.

The images that haunting me are a woman unconscious on the side of the road with villagers pounding her on the chest as LICADHO doctor fights his way to her, or the old woman wailing on the ground, rolling around, screaming in shock. I remember bulldozers pushing through houses while we pulled (a colleague) out of its way and seeing one of our Dey Krahorm friends on the side of the road beaten about the head with obvious head contusions. We went to him to help and the police surrounded us and pushed us away from him. I told the police in Khmer that he was our friend but he didn’t care, we were being escorted out. I told him we were not breaking the law. He didn’t care. I told him to stop touching me [shoving] and he replied that yes he could touch me. As we reached the edge of the community, we saw Group 78, another threatened village, with a police barricade across the entrance, complete with armed military police, preventing Group 78 from helping their brothers and sisters in Dey Krahorm. I don’t know what compelled us in that moment, but (a colleague) and I waved at them as we walked by. Many waved back. We were connected in our suffering, dispite barricade, despite military police, despite lack of words.

We are radicals so we snuck into the University grounds next to Dey Krahorm. There was an 8-foot wall blocking our view but we could see the breakers demolishing houses on the second story of some houses. I found a tree against the fence and climbed it getting a perfect view of
a few clearly identified human rights monitors and tons of police. Women were screaming, children were crying. (My colleague) passed me the camera to film. I was getting some good evidence but was spotted. I kept the camera rolling for a while longer because they were pointing right at me and it was so damning on their behalf. I could see them calling for someone to remove me so I quickly handed the camera down to kir and as I started to climb down, a breaker appeared on the other side of the fence and sprayed me in the face with a fire extinguisher. Thankfully I have glasses!

We made it back to (a colleague's) apartment, strategically across the street from Dey Krahorm. The three of us were in shock really. And so helpless. Words cannot describe our ravaged souls at watching our loved ones beaten down and evil prevail. And just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse,  phoned telling me to call an ambulance because the bull dozer hit (...) one of our closest friends, and biggest human rights defender. As we waited for our friend to pick us up and take us with a car, we saw another one of our friends ‘Coffee Grandma’. She was holding her youngest grandchild in her arms and the other in her hand.
She was in complete shock and started screaming and crying. (...). We all shoved in the car and raced to the hospital. Thankfully no fractures but shock and possibly some cuncussion. She remained in the hospital overnight. Her daughter suffered a head wound. More than 15 people were injured. LICADHO doctor treated as many as he could before being escorted out himself.

Four years of non-violent resistance and peace building by Dey Krahorm violently annihilated in four hours.

Many families are living in LICADHO office right now for lack of better options. Others were dumped at the relocation site in front of homes that weren’t finished being built. It’s chaos, it’s heartbreaking. Everyone in shock.

Everyone’s been working like mad gathering footage and pics. LICADHO is sending a slide show to Embassies, international donors and organisations tomorrow morning at 6am to call for condemnation of the eviction of Dey Krahorm and intervention on behalf of Dey Krahorm families. Cornelius is downstairs, writing for a Danish blog to share on the topic while he waits for a Danish radio station to phone. (A colleague) is putting video together to upload to web by morning.

I’m writing my testimony as a witness, sorting through others’ footage for our use and uploading pics. Borey and the other Danish friends are helping to take care of practical and emotional needs of families living at LICADHO; serving food, cleaning rooms, processing their
photos to share and of course, providing love and comfort. Everyone is around is chipping in and doing their part without discussion and it’s all coming together. Together we will show the world Cambodia’s government’s version of development at any cost, supported by your country and mine through our generous donations. Oh and via America through the US army issued riot gear for them to use on their citizens.

Will send link to new videos as soon as they are up. Someone will pay for this and we will shove the evidence down throats until they do.

How is Dey Krahorm doing? How are we doing? Words cannot express....

 

 


Comments

These are some letters I

These are some letters I wrote after the eviction of part of our community in January (the 2nd letter was sent out by Village Earth in February, so you may have already read it).
Letter #1:
[3 Days After The Eviction, January 27, 2009] Dear Friends, There was some terrible events here in the community where we have been working since I arrived here, as the community of Dey Krahorm had their houses smashed with sledge hammers and crow bars Saturday morning as the home owners frantically grabbed their belongings. I watched and assisted the best I could in absolute horror, and have been on an adrenaline rush for 3 days trying to assist my friends in the aftermath of their traumatic events. Our school is ok, since we moved into the adjacent apartment building in anticipation of this eviction. I knew it was coming, but truly thought that the government and this developer, 7NG, would handle the situation better, that Cambodia was beyond this heavy handedness, but it doesn’t seem to be the case. Many of our students are currently displaced, but we also have a lot of students that did not live in the community that was evicted who are helping those in need. The school will serve as a center offering a place for some to sleep, food, and resource center to try to find new homes, etc, and will carry on with classes as we have for almost 3 years. It is a very sad situation for many, and I am doing my best.


Amnesty International Press Release

Cambodia: Hundreds left homeless after forced eviction

January 26th, 2009

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
PRESS RELEASE

Cambodia: Hundreds left homeless after forced eviction

The Cambodian authorities must stop denying people the right to housing and ensure adequate compensation and restitution for over 150 poor urban families who were forcibly evicted from central Phnom Penh at the weekend, Amnesty International said today.

Cambodian security forces and demolition workers forcibly evicted 152 families from Dey Kraham community in the early hours of 24 January 2009, leaving the vast majority of them homeless. At around 3 am, an estimated 250 police, military police and workers hired by the company claiming to own the land blocked access to the community before dispersing the population with tear gas and threats of violence. At 6 am excavators moved in and levelled the village. Some of the families were not able to retrieve belongings from their homes before the demolition. Officials from Phnom Penh municipality were present during the destruction.

“The most urgent task now is for the government to immediately address the humanitarian needs of these people, who have lost their homes and face imminent food and water shortages,” said Brittis Edman, Cambodia researcher. “They will also need assistance for a long time to come.”

Cambodia is a state party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and has an obligation to protect the population against forced evictions. Saturday’s events show all too clearly how little respect Cambodian authorities have for these requirements.

The Phnom Penh municipality has provided less than 30 of the 152 families with shelter at a designated resettlement site at Cham Chao commune in Dangkor district, some 16 kilometres from the city centre. Most of the other structures at the site are still under construction and lack roofs. There is no clean water, no electricity, sewage or basic services. Earlier, most of the affected community rejected being resettled there because it was too far from Phnom Penh, where they work, mostly as street vendors.

Since the forced eviction, the Dey Kraham community has been told that the company, which has allegedly purchased the land, has withdrawn earlier offers of compensation, leaving families who have been living in uncertainty and insecurity for more than two years, now faced with rebuilding their lives with nothing.

Local authority representatives sold the land to the company, 7NG, in 2005 without the knowledge, participation or consultation with the affected community. Some 300 families were coerced into moving amid threats, harassment and intimidation, while 152 families continued to dispute the validity of the sale and refused to give up the land without compensation.

Just over a week before the forced eviction, the affected community told the authorities and the company that they were willing to move if they received adequate compensation for the land, where many of them have lived, uncontested, for decades and to which they have strong claims under the 2001 Land Law. The company then increased the offer of compensation, but the two sides had not yet reached an agreement.

“It is an outrage that the Cambodian authorities went ahead with the forced eviction, when progress was being made towards a mutual settlement. Now hundreds of children, women and men are left homeless”, said Edman.

Background
Forced evictions are one of the most widespread human rights violations in Cambodia, and those affected are almost exclusively marginalised people living in poverty, in both urban and rural areas. In 2008, at least 27 forced evictions affecting over 20,000 people were reported in the media and by local organisations.

Hundreds of land activists are facing spurious charges, and dozens have been imprisoned, as the rich and powerful are increasingly abusing the criminal justice system to acquire land and evict those living there. At least nine community representatives from Dey Kraham have been charged for criminal offences as a result of their peaceful defence of their right to housing.

As a state party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Cambodia is obliged to ensure, before any planned evictions, that all alternatives are explored in consultation with those affected by the eviction. Evictions may only occur in accordance with the law and in conformity with international standards, including genuine consultation with those affected; adequate notice and information on the proposed eviction; and provisions of legal remedies for those affected. Evictions may only occur if they do not render individuals homeless or vulnerable to the violation of other human rights.

In May 2009, the Committee Economic, Social and Cultural Rights will consider Cambodia’s first and considerably delayed report on its compliance with the treaty.

END/


Statement and Appeal from Bridges across Borders

 

Statement and Appeal from Bridges across Borders (excerpts)

(...)

This morning (Monday) more than 100 Dey Krahorm families went to City Hall to demand restitution for their property that was taken and destroyed on Saturday. They were told that cash compensation is now off the table and all they can get is one of those sad flats that the company has built at their relocation site. The families have always rejected this option because the site is far away from their jobs and small businesses in the city, where their children attend school and where there are basic services available. Moving out there would constitute a complete disruption of every aspect of their lives and would almost certainly result in deeper impoverishment. Now they being forced to choose between homelessness and moving somewhere against their will.

(...)

Many residents who refused to leave their land were not able to salvage their possessions. All their personal belongings were destroyed, including motorbikes, furniture, clothing, televisions, cooking utensils, photographs, family heirlooms, schoolbooks, and important medication and documents. Every time these families owned was buried under their demolished homes.

Excavators tore down the larger houses and bulldozers crushed their remains. On one occasion, a bulldozer nearly crushed a resident. The woman was extremely agitated and attempted to hit the driver, who became angry and retaliated by driving directly at her and pushing mounds of debris in her direction, seriously threatening the woman's life and safety. The woman fainted due to trauma and collapsed amidst the rubble, when the bulldozer came barrelling at her and came within inches of crushing her to death. She was carried away by her wailing daughter and was later found to have sustained fractures to her hip and ankle.

Others tried to immolate themselves in a final act of defiance, but were prevented from doing so by police, who carted them away before they could burn themselves alive in protest.

Flat-bed trucks took away the debris and re-usable building materials. Officers were witnessed carrying away electrical goods. Some families who agreed to move to the relocation site were allowed to load their remaining possessions onto trucks and were driven away. They were hauled off and dumped in front of the relocation site 20 kilometers outside the city. No food, water, shelter or latrines were prepared for them there. 27 families who were on the company's list of those deemed "eligible" for compensation were given small flats resembling one-car garages at the distant relocation site. Hundreds of other "ineligible" families assembled makeshift tents as they wait in limbo for the authorities and company to decide their fate. 38 families refused to get onto the trucks and instead went to the offices of the local human rights organization Licadho.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Governor of Phnom Penh Mann Chouen delivered a press conference where the Dey Krahorm market once stood. Afterward, he met with police and military officers and congratulated them on the operation. Then he posed for photographs with various 7NG staff, including the owner's son, and the spokesperson for the Council of Ministers. They smiled for the cameras in front of the smouldering remains of the community that they just destroyed. The attending press failed to ask the company how it managed get away with stealing a $44 million dollar piece of real estate in the heart of Phnom Penh.

(...)

We are appealing for donations to provide food, clothing and other essential items for these families for the next two weeks, and tarps and mosquito nets for those who were dumped in the 7NG's parking lot outside the city. We also seek donation to support the community's ongoing advocacy and legal expenses.

Secure donations can be made a:

https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?aid=21899.

Choose Stop Evictions Campaign from the
drop-down menu to direct your donation to support for Dey Krahorm.

 


New video of Dey Krahorm eviction

WITNESS partner LICADHO, along with Platapus, LICADHO Canada, Bridges Across Borders and Karl Bille shot powerful footage from the Dey Krahorm forced eviction. Check it out here, on an updated blog post.


Organizing for Dey Krahorm on Facebook

Join the Facebook group "Cambodia Evictions Update" for updates and actions - also view the slideshows of photos taken at the Dey Krahorm eviction, Saturday.


Such a pity

It is very sad to see citizens treated like this by their own government.This land next to PM-H.S. Park of Mao Tse Tung Blvd. near BB University is prime property and it is no wonder the government has committed such state resorces to clamp down on innocent citizens just to advance the cause of a private company, which is most likely owned by relatives, friends of the power holders (not more than 5 of them). H.E. Prof. Yash Pal Ghai said last year, inter alia; the people of Cambodia will rise up against the insensitive and greedy government of Cambodia if injustice does not prevail on the pertinent land issue.
All tyranny comes to an end one day. My sympathies to the great citizens of Cambodia.


Dey Krohom pictures

There are more Dey Krohom pictures at the following URL's:

http://johnvink.com/story.php?title=Cambodia_Quest_for_Land_Dey_Krohom

Of the first eviction in 2006:

http://johnvink.com/story.php?title=Cambodia_Quest_for_Land4


Thanks John for the links.

Thanks John for the links. Ryan