Phnom Penh is the biggest city of Cambodia, and it is also the focus point of economic, service, and infrastructure. As Urbanization has been the natural product of the city’s gradual development. As a result, the physical layout of Phnom Penh has changed a lot, with the construction of satellite cities, high buildings and other infrastructures. However to facilitate these developments, there have been many evictions of existing Phnom Penh residents, particularly those in urban poor settlements This has clearly become a social issue that the public cares about, and that warrants further attention.
Certainly, city development and urbanization go hand-in-hand. However, without effective and sensitive planning and consultation, tensions between the needs of the developing city and the needs of existing residents can arise. Responsible development means that that these tensions are addressed, and solutions that are satisfactory for both developers and affected families are found. Unfortunately, in Phnom Penh some evictions have happened forcibly in the name of the city development.
In 2012, there was a large eviction in Borei Keila. On the 3rd of January, within hours many people’s homes at Borei Keila were destroyed with the cooperation between the local authorities, military police and policemen. This was done as a result of a partnership with Phanimex Company, which planned to develop the four hectares of land in the area.
During the eviction, fire trucks, bull dozers, and armed police with tear gas were in place to prevent the people from disturbing these activities. Though they had little chance of successfully defending their homes, residents staged protests against the eviction. Stone throwing led to a clash between both sides, and as a result 11 protesters were arrested.
The company agreed to build ten buildings to re-house the families affected by the evictions. However, to date only eight buildings have been constructed and given former Borei Keila residents while another 384 families have been left homeless. Instead, they were evicted to Tuol Sombo in the Dangkor District of outer Phnom Penh. These residents disagreed with this arrangement and continued to protest through petitions, road blocks, and demonstrations. These efforts were unsuccessful, and those 384 families had to unhappily move 30 km away to the west of the city and settle down in Tuol Sombo.
Another notable eviction relates to the Boeung Kok Lakedevelopment plan to build commercial centers, residents, and tourism hub. Their story is disturbing similar to that of Borei Keila residents. The government granted a lease agreement to Shukaku Erdos Hongjun Property Development Co. Ltd, which is a joint venture between Shukaku Inc and Erdos Hong Jun Investment from China. The Boeung Kok development plan covers an area of 133 hectares, resulting in the forced eviction of an estimated 4,000 families or 20,000 residents. However, unlike the case of Borei Keila there was no agreed compensation for the families living around the Boeung Kok Lake.
In August 2008, the company started to fill up the lake with sand and by April 2014 approximately 3500 families were forced to accept the compensation for their losses. However, the rest of the affected families continued fighting for the compensation they think they deserve. Consequently, many protests and demonstrations have happened to challenge this irresponsible development. There was a crackdown by the authorities against these protests, resulting in people being beaten and electrically shocked. Meanwhile, many other forms of requests for the support from the protesters, such as the proposal for in situ resettlement, were rejected.
It is also important to note that so far the Boeung Kok eviction has been seen as among the biggest evictions ever happened for the development of Phnom Penh.The case has still not been closed, and further protests remain a possibility.