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Cablegate: Residents in Ongoing Phnom Penh Land Dispute Receive Final

VZCZCXRO5900
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #1030/01 3641059
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 291059Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0255
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 001030

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM CB
SUBJECT: RESIDENTS IN ONGOING PHNOM PENH LAND DISPUTE RECEIVE FINAL
EVICTION NOTICE

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

1. (SBU) On December 25, the Phnom Penh Municipal Government issued
a "final" eviction notice to residents of the Dey Krahorm area of
Phnom Penh. The notice, signed by Chamkarmon District Governor Lo
Yuy, instructs the approximately 130 remaining Dey Krahorm families
to vacate the area by Tuesday, December 30 or face forced eviction.
(NOTE: The notice states that 91 families remain in Dey Krahorm.
Community representative Chan Vichet told Pol Assistant that the
government notice did not count an additional 40 families that do
not have recognized addresses for their residences. The lawyer
advising the community believes the majority of these families are
legitimate residents. END NOTE.)

2. (SBU) Chan Vichet said that the notice does not state when a
forced eviction would begin. He speculated that the eviction would
not happen until a later date, as the Dey Krahorm residents are
still negotiating compensation proposals with the municipal
government; community members met with Phnom Penh Deputy Governor
Mann Chhoeun on the morning of December 29 and held a press
conference with their formal response to the eviction notice on the
same day. Mann Chhoeun would not comment on the case when contacted
by Pol Assistant, other than to say that he was working with human
rights NGOs to negotiate a fair settlement for the Dey Krahorm
families.

COMPENSATION AND LAND VALUES
---------------------------

3. (SBU) In 2003, the Council of Ministers issued a letter to the
Phnom Penh Municipal Government to create four social land
concessions for poor families, including one in Dey Krahorm. (NOTE:
A representative of the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC)
told Poloff that although the Council of Ministers advised that a
social concession should be created in Dey Krahorm, there was no
evidence that the concession was actually created. END NOTE.)
According to the Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF) and the Cambodian
League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), in
January 2005, 36 community representatives signed a contract to sell
the land in the area to Cambodian construction firm 7NG Company.

4. (SBU) The company reportedly offered each family a house in
Damnak Trayoeung village, located outside of Phnom Penh, plus
770,000 riel (about $193) and initial food supplies. (NOTE:
According to CLEC, the resettlement area in this case is better than
those offered in other eviction cases. A CLEC representative
speculated that because the Dey Krahorm community had the potential
to keep the land as a social concession, they had a stronger
bargaining position from which to negotiate sales terms with 7NG.
END NOTE.) Those that did not want a house were reportedly offered
$10,000 in compensation, plus some food supplies.

5. (SBU) According to Lo Yuy, about 1,374 families relocated to
Damnak Trayoeung. The remaining families state that the community
members that signed the 7NG contract did so without their consent.
They say that 7NG's compensation offer is insufficient and counter
that they should receive $50,000 to $100,000 per family. According
to Chan Vichet, these estimates are based on a 2008 land appraisal
conducted by the Bonna Realty Group, one of Cambodia's largest real
estate firms, which valued the land in Dey Krahorm between $3,000
and $6,000 per square meter. (NOTE: According to a Property Sales
Manager at Bonna Realty Group, one square meter of land in Dey
Krahorm is currently valued at an average of $1,800, given the fall
in land prices. END NOTE.)

COMMENT
------

6. (SBU) The issues behind the Dey Krahorm case are common in Phnom
Penh land disputes. Dey Krahorm residents, and those in similar
situations such as the Boeung Kak Lake community, are demanding
compensation based on the market value of the lands that they
occupy. However, their ownership claims to the land, and hence the
legal grounds on which they can request compensation, remain murky.
If the land was indeed granted as a social concession, the Dey
Krahorm residents do not legally own the land. If the land was not
established as a social concession, it would still need to be
formally mapped and categorized as state public, state private, or
private land before it could be bought or sold.

7. (SBU) Regardless of the status of the land, the legality of the
sale itself is questionable, given that only a portion of the Dey
Krahorm community authorized the sales contract. We do not have
data on exactly what percent of recognized families initially
supported the contract, nor on how split decisions like this should
be adjudicated under Cambodian law. However, the Phnom Penh
municipal government will likely do everything in its power to
ensure that the contract is upheld; the sale provides a basis on
which to evict poor residents from land that could be used for more

PHNOM PENH 00001030 002.2 OF 002


productive commercial purposes.


CAMPBELL

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