UPDATE (Cambodia): Misery of homeless tenants continues unabated 


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-116-2006
ISSUES: Land rights,

[RE: UA-148-2006: CAMBODIA: Poor tenants brutally forced out of homes; UP-108-2006: CAMBODIA: Inhumane treatment of poor tenants forcibly displaced]
CAMBODIA: Forced eviction; denial of right to housing; inhumane treatment

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) strongly condemns the continued cruel and degrading treatment of poor homeless tenants by the Cambodian authorities that led homeless tenants in the same village to riot against them on 31 May 2006 (to see our previous appeals on this issue please refer to: UA-148-2006and UP-108-2006).

On May 3 the authorities began forcibly evicting the inhabitants of a village nicknamed “bird’s nest village” on the bank of the Bassac River, not far from the centre of Phnom Penh, and demolished their houses to clear the land for its private owner. The owners of those houses were resettled in an area some 22 kilometres away from the capital. However, this eviction made over 400 families of poor tenants immediately homeless. These tenants had to stay on in the village as they had nowhere else to go. They have since been camping out night and day in the open with little shelter in the hot sun and monsoon rains.

The authorities have promised to make land available for the tenants. But their promise has not been matched by their deeds given that they have taken inhumane measures to pressurise them to leave the place on their own. They have also prevented the tenants from building any form of shelter and have blocked off the site for humanitarian groups and their effort to give those homeless tents or any other assistance. They have also cut off running water and electricity for the homeless and have further banned any sale of water on the site. Furthermore, they have put up a corrugated metal fence to block off the unattractive sight to the public. As a result of this blockade, many of the homeless, especially children, have suffered from diarrhea and flu due to bad hygienic conditions, lack of food and insoluble water.

More recently, a security guard physically assaulted a pregnant woman and the authorities pulled down a home and its timber fell onto a 12-year-old girl rendering her unconscious. These latest acts of brutality sparked off a riot against the authorities on May 31, when hundreds of poor tenants, armed with metal bars and farm tools, attacked and chased away the security guard who had beaten the pregnant woman. The rioters also torched several buildings, including an administrative office, and tore apart the corrugated metal fence.

The Asian Human Rights Commission urges the Cambodian government to immediately end this cruel treatment of the homeless tenants, and allow them to build decent shelters and be given access to and receive assistance from the humanitarian organisations working in the area.


Please write to the Prime Minister of Cambodia calling for an immediate halt to the eviction of the Bassac River residents and the cruel and degrading treatment they are being subjected to. Please also demand that a negotiated settlement that respects their human rights be found.


To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Suggested letter to the Prime Minister:

Dear Prime Minister Hun Sen

CAMBODIA: The Cambodian government must immediately end the misery of homeless tenants

I am writing to condemn your government’s actions in continuing to subject homeless tenants to cruel and degrading treatment following their forced displacement and the destruction of their homes on May 3.

Along with denying these people access to humanitarian assistance and the supply of water and electricity, I am also aware that they have not been allowed to build proper shelter to protect themselves from the elements. How much worse will the conditions in which these people are currently being forced to live in get before your government feels an obligation to intervene?

Along with the appalling conditions, I am aware that riots erupted in the area on May 31 after a security guard physically assaulted a pregnant woman, and when the debris from a house forcibly pushed to the ground by the authorities landed on a 12-year-old girl, rendering her unconscious. It is of little wonder that the riot occurred and that damage was done given the frustration that must be being felt by the homeless tenants in the area. One can only subject people to such conditions for so long before they have no choice but to fight back.

I urge your government to refrain from treating these people in such a manner. Your government must first and foremost ensure that all residents are given new premises with appropriate social amenities, including a school, health centre, electricity, running water and access roads. This should be done in consultation with the residents and outside experts to ensure that--unlike in previous relocation projects--the people do not abandon the resettlement area and again drift back into Phnom Penh. I ask that your intervention be forthcoming to reduce the amount of time that these people are subjected to such inhumane conditions.

Your government should also ensure that owners of rented houses have not exploited the plight of poor tenants to claim most of the benefits of compensation and resettlement for themselves, while leaving their tenants homeless. These owners should be the last to receive recompense in the relocation process, as their fundamental right to housing and other basic rights have not been affected.

I trust you will give due consideration to the above and take immediate and necessary action. I also trust that you will understand that as this incident is gaining attention internationally it is negatively affecting the reputation of your government and may cause donor countries to reconsider their support for work in Cambodia.

Yours sincerely


Mr. Samdech Hun Sen
Prime Minister
Office of the Council of Ministers
Phnom Penh
Fax: + 855 23 426 054


1. Mr. Ang Vong Vathna
Minster of Justice
No 240, Sothearos Blvd.
Phnom Penh
Fax: + 855 23 364119
Email: moj@cambodia.gov.kh

2. Mr. Hor Namhong
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
No 161, Preah Sisowath Quay
Phnom Penh
Fax: + 855 23 216144/ 216939
Email: mfaicasean@bigpond.com.kh

3. Mr. Douglas Gardner
UNDP Resident Representative in Cambodia
53, Pasteur Street
Boeung Keng Kang
P.O. Box 877
Phnom Penh
Fax: + 855 23 216 257
E-mail: douglas.gardner@undp.org

4. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights - Cambodia
N° 10, Street 302
Sangkat Boeng Keng Kang I
Khan Chamcar Mon
Phnom Penh
Tel: +855 23 987 671 / 987 672, 993 590 / 993 591 or +855 23 216 342 
Fax: +855 23 212 579, 213 587 
Email: cohchr@online.com.kh

5. Prof. Yash Ghai
Special Representative of the Secretary-General for human rights in Cambodia
Attn: Ms. Afarin Shahidzadeh 
Room 3-080
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 91 79214
Email: urgent-action@ohchr.org 

6. Mr. Miloon Kothari
Special Rapporteur on adequate housing
Attn: Ms. Cecilia Moller
Room 4-066/010
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9265
Email: urgent-action@ohchr.org 

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ahrchk@ahrchk.org)

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : UP-116-2006
Countries : Cambodia,
Issues : Land rights,