Tue, Feb 12, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Thousands of Cambodian poor face forced evictions

AFP , PHNOM PENH

Hundreds of thousands of Cambodians are threatened with forced eviction as the government ramps up development in the country's cities, the human rights group Amnesty International said yesterday.

"In sharp contrast to the rhetoric of the government's pro-poor policies ... thousands of people, particularly those living in poverty, have been forcibly evicted from their homes and lands," the group said.

"At least 150,000 Cambodians across the country are known to live at risk of being forcibly evicted," Amnesty added at the launch of its new report, "Rights Razed -- Forced evictions in Cambodia."

As Cambodia experiences spiraling land prices -- the result of unprecedented economic growth -- the country's poor are being increasingly pushed aside to make way for multimillion-dollar development schemes.

In the capital Phnom Penh and other urban centers, this has resulted in thousands of families being made homeless or forced to move to squalid relocation sites outside the cities.

Amnesty called these evictions "one of the most widespread human rights violations affecting Cambodians in both rural and urban areas."

Land disputes have sparked some of the worst violence suffered by Cambodia since the end of its protracted civil war a decade ago.

At least two people were seriously injured in clashes over land late last month as workers for a development company squared off with villagers in a Phnom Penh slum that is slated for demolition.

Late last year, at least one person was killed and a foreign tourist taken hostage for several hours during an ongoing property dispute in northern Cambodia.

The UN has repeatedly raised the alarm over rising land disputes, with several rights envoys warning that these could de-stabilize the country.

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