"I lost my house, rice and belongings like clothes and utensils. All houses were burned down and destroyed by the excavator and the bulldozer. They kept (the) good-condition corrugated steel and planks of wood for themselves. They even took water jars and looted our chickens and ducks. They never came to evict us like this before."
-- A villager in Sihanoukville, who lost her home on April 20, 2007
WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Amnesty International charged today that forced evictions are one of the most widespread human rights violations in Cambodia and that at least 150,000 Cambodians in rural and urban areas live at risk of being forcibly evicted due to land disputes, land seizures and new development projects.
In the new report, Rights Razed -- Forced evictions in Cambodia, Amnesty International accuses Cambodian authorities of contradicting their rhetoric of policies to help its disadvantaged citizens by these forced evictions. The Cambodian government is not only failing to protect - in law and practice - the population against forced evictions, but is actively involved in these unlawful acts.
"As long as these forced evictions continue, regardless of Cambodian authorities' implicit support or explicit participation, the government's highly trumpeted poverty-reduction agenda rings hollow," said Larry Cox, Amnesty International USA executive director. "Instead of protecting and supporting its vulnerable citizens, the Cambodian government is actually unraveling recent progress against poverty. It is empowering the country's economic and political powers rather than those in need."
The report shows that Cambodian government authorities have opted to evict citizens without exploring other alternatives. Affected groups received little or no information on planned evictions and did not have access to adequate alternative housing. In addition, these residents do not have any recourse to recoup their losses. Most evictions are occurring because of the increased economic opportunities for new development.
"In one day, more than 100 families became homeless as law enforcement agents and the military cleared their village," said Laola Hironaka, Amnesty International USA's Cambodia country specialist. "Many residents not only lost their house, but the land they use to grow food for themselves."
Amnesty International urges the Cambodian government to:
-- End all forced evictions;
-- Introduce a moratorium for all mass evictions until legislation and policy is enacted requiring any further evictions to be conducted in full compliance with international human rights laws and standards;
-- Ensure that those victimized by forced evictions have access to, at the very least, adequate shelter, clean water, sanitation, health services and education, including through the provision of humanitarian assistance where necessary;
-- And abide by its obligations under international human rights law to give those affected by eviction an opportunity for genuine participation and consultation.
"The merciless impoverishment of Cambodians needs to stop now. The Cambodian government owes at least this much to its people," said Cox.
A forced eviction is 'the permanent or temporary removal against the will of individuals, families and/or communities from the homes and/or land which they occupy, without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection,' according to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Forced evictions have been recognized by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights as a gross violation, and are also -- as in the cases presented here -- associated with other human rights abuses.
As a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and other international human rights treaties that prohibit forced eviction and related human rights violations, Cambodia has an obligation to stop forced evictions and to protect the population from forced evictions.
For more information or a copy of the full report, Rights Razed -- Forced evictions in Cambodia, please contact Sharon Singh at email@example.com.