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Cablegate: Draft Resettlement Regulations Raise Ngo and Donor

VZCZCXRO6247
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0962/01 3620854
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 280854Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1507
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 000962

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, DRL
USAID FOR ASIA BUREAU

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM EAGR SENV KDEM ECON CB
SUBJECT: DRAFT RESETTLEMENT REGULATIONS RAISE NGO AND DONOR
CONCERNS

REF: PHNOM PENH 654 AND PREVIOUS

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. On December 4, the Ministry of Land Management,
Urban Planning, and Construction (MLMUPC) released a draft circular
on the process for resettlement of urban poor communities, which it
referred to as "illegal, temporary settlements." German development
agency GTZ, which has found itself at the forefront of land sector
issues since the withdrawal of the World Bank (Reftel), attempted to
coordinate a joint donor response to the circular but failed to
reach a compromise with other leading donors who advocated for a
strong statement of concern. However, participants at a December 18
public workshop on the circular managed to lobby the MLMUPC
successfully for changes. END SUMMARY.

DRAFT RESETTLEMENT CIRCULAR PUTS GERMANS IN A BIND
--------------------------------------------- -----

2. (SBU) On December 4, the MLMUPC issued for public comment a draft
circular on the process for resettlement of urban poor communities.
The MLMUPC had reportedly drafted the circular in response to a GTZ
request for a standard operating procedure for resettlement of
communities in eviction cases, in an attempt to avoid the types of
high-profile, sometimes violent evictions seen in Cambodia in the
past. (NOTE: GTZ, the largest donor involved in the Cambodian land
sector, has come under increased scrutiny from human rights groups
since the World Bank's (WB) withdrawal from the MLMUPC's Land
Management and Administration Program (LMAP). END NOTE.)

3. (SBU) Although land sector analysts acknowledged the need for a
resettlement framework, NGOs and the donor Technical Working Group
on Land (TWG-Land) identified several concerns with the draft
circular. For example, the circular defined urban poor communities
as "illegal, temporary settlements", pre-judging the status of those
who according to the 2001 Land Law may have legal possession claims
to the land and/or building where the individuals reside. The
introductory text specifically made reference to "300 of 569 illegal
communities in the capital city resolved to date," a statistic
related to a 2003 survey of 569 urban poor settlements in Phnom
Penh, which made no determination of the settlements' legality.
The draft circular also included tenure requirements for titling
that were inconsistent with those stipulated for social land
concessions in the Land Law.

4. (SBU) GTZ, the WB, and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for
Human Rights (UNOHCHR) attempted to draft a joint donor submission
to suggest revisions covering major concerns. However, they failed
to reach a compromise on the tone of the statement prior to a
December 18 MLMUPC public consultation workshop on the circular.
GTZ wanted a more neutral statement of concern, while the WB/UNOHCHR
(and Post) preferred a stronger statement reflecting donor concerns
raised by the TWG-Land. A UNOHCHR staffer speculated to Poloff that
GTZ wanted to keep the donor statement more conservative in order to
avoid antagonizing the MLMUPC; GTZ feared facing the same issues
encountered by the WB when it began to press the RGC on LMAP's
limitations (Reftel).

RGC OFFICIALS DEFENSIVE BUT PROMISE CHANGES
-------------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Although donors failed to issue a joint statement,
individual donor, civil society, and community representatives
raised many of their common concerns at the December 18 public
consultation workshop. MLMUPC Deputy Director General Beng Hong
Socheat Khemro acknowledged that the reference to "illegal,
temporary" settlements was misleading and promised to revise or
remove it. He explained that the circular was meant to govern the
procedures for relocating communities living illegally on state land
only. Beng also noted that the "300 of 569" statistic was
incorrect, adding that it was meant to be an example, as the
circular would be applied nationwide, not just in Phnom Penh. On
the issue of tenure required to qualify for titling, Beng said that
the MLMUPC would investigate the request. Participants also raised
concerns about procedures for selecting community representatives to
negotiate with authorities in cases of evictions. UNOHCHR and GTZ
reps met with Beng after the workshop to push for more public
consultation after the draft circular is revised to ensure the
requested changes are made.

COMMENT
-------

6. (SBU) Despite some of the legitimate concerns raised by the
circular, it does represent a small movement on the part of the RGC
in response to repeated donor calls for a legal, transparent, and
fair framework for handling the controversial issue of evictions and
resettlement. The public consultation process for the draft

PHNOM PENH 00000962 002 OF 002


circular on urban resettlement was far from perfect but serves as a
rare positive example of civil society voices on land issues being
heard by the RGC. Meanwhile GTZ, now stuck at the forefront of
donors on land sector issues, will have to find the balance that
eluded the WB between maintaining good relations with the RGC while
offering constructive criticism.


ALLEGRA

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