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29 June 2006

The following statement was issued today by the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, Miloon Kothari, and the Secretary-General's Special Representative on human rights defenders, Hina Jilani:

“Despite numerous international and national appeals, the Government of Cambodia and the Municipality of Phnom Penh have continued the forced evictions, contrary to international human rights law, of informal settlements on the bank of the Bassac River in central Phnom Penh. Demolitions, forced evictions and relocations by the Municipality of Phnom Penh with the aide of police and security forces were initiated in the beginning of May 2006, culminating on 6 June when over a thousand remaining poor families living in the area were evicted and several arrests were carried out in connection with these evictions. During these events, the area surrounding the eviction site was sealed by armed forces and neither representatives of non governmental organizations, human rights defenders, the media nor the United Nations were allowed to monitor the evictions.

“We strongly condemn the forced evictions targeting poor and vulnerable people, carried out with total disregard to Cambodia’s human rights obligations, as well as the denial of access by, and help from, non governmental organizations to the victims.

“The remaining estimated 150 families in the Bassac settlement (Group 78), reportedly with strong property claims, allegedly continue to face pressure from the Municipality of Phnom Penh to leave the area. We urge the Government of Cambodia and the Municipality of Phnom Penh to ensure that the legal rights of these persons are respected, that all procedures are carried out according to the highest international human rights standards and that non governmental organizations have access to the area and are allowed to provide the remaining families with aid.

“Detailed information received indicates that the condition at the two relocation sites in Dangkor District (Trapeing Anh Chanh and Andong), where now over a thousand families are living, are more than precarious and the sites lack basic infrastructure such as toilets and other sanitation facilities, sewage, electricity and running water. In Andong, living conditions are particularly preoccupying. Medical reports indicate that living conditions heavily affect the health of the residents, with a particularly high impact on children. In view of this humanitarian emergency situation, we call upon the international community and the relief agencies to provide, as soon as possible, any help they can to the people living in the resettlement areas as well as those still in the Bassac settlement.

“We are receiving troubling information that other evictions are occurring, in particular in the Monivong Hospital area. We urge the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia to put a halt to evictions until a comprehensive national housing policy based on human rights obligations is adopted. Such legislation, drafted with the help of the concerned stakeholders, will avoid in the future the dramatic situation that the Bassac residents are currently experiencing. We are at the disposal of the Government to help such a process in any possible way”.