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More than 1,500 people marched in the capital Pnomh Penh on World habitat day 2014, demanding decent living conditions for the urban poor. Photo by: Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT)

Cambodia: World habitat day 2014

On 6 October 2014, Approximately 1,500 community people and organizations came together in Phnom Penh to celebrate the 29th World Habitat Day under the chosen theme of “Voice from Urban Poor” which is reflected the current events in Cambodia.

10/22/2014 Publisher: Vannak Lach

The urban poor demand decent living conditions 

More than 50 communities and 20 CSOs and NGOs celebrated this event and raised their voices to a range of obstacles and threats the urban poor have been facing, including land tenure insecurity, eviction, inadequate housing and a lack of infrastructure to ensure decent living conditions.

The demonstrators brought a mock house and banners as symbol of what they need and what they had lost. The celebration also included public remarks from the communities, a press conference by the communities and CSOs/NGOs representatives and a march to the National Assembly and the Phnom Penh Municipal (MPP) offices to submit a petition from the communities and the victims of land grabbing, eviction and resettlement.

How are future generations going to survive?

“We spent so much time living silently under all the pressures, human rights violations and the lack of law enforcement and injustice causing by the government and all the investment companies, and we have had enough. We come here today to show the world that Cambodians hunger for justice and human rights, and the government, private, national and international attention is required by us,” said Mrs. Sea Nareth, former Beung Kak community.

“We have lost a lot of property because of the development projects allowed by the government, and we are concerned about future generations. How are they going to survive and where is the dignity if we cannot even provide them with proper shelters?” she added.

The petition was delivered to four lawmakers

After three hours of chanting outside the National Assembly, eight representatives of the group were allowed inside to deliver the petition to four lawmakers: Ke Sovannaroth, Eng Chhay Eang and Chan Cheng from the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), and Lor Kheng from the Cambodian People’s Party. The four lawmakers promised to solve the problem for the victims.

In May 2014, there was a creation of the “General Department of Housing” at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction (MLMUPC) mandated to work with stakeholders on the implementation of the national housing policy. Furthermore the Municipal of Phnom Penh (MPP) in created the Working Group on Urban Poor Poverty Reduction as a result of the recognition of the chronic problems of insecure tenure, poor housing and access to community infrastructure faced by urban poor communities in Phnom Penh. It is expected that MPP will continue and intensify these efforts, which, if implemented will help poor communities.

Although Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong has promised to end the Borei Keila and Boeung Kak disputes almost 18 months ago, he has failed to resolve either case so far.

Stopped by a barricade and guards

While their petition is being delivered to law makers at the National Assembly, the demonstrators continued marching to deliver another petition to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet. However, the group was stopped by a barricade manned by a dozen security guards. Thereafter the protesters decided to hand the petition instead to a cabinet official and a deputy governor of Phnom Penh after which they ended the march.