Over 250,000 Cambodians have fallen victim to illegal evictions since 2003. Government officials have been selling citizen and public land to corporations who use it to build and expand companies. These contracts and land sales are often made without the consent of the individuals who own and occupy the land.
Despite Government claims sayings they do not support land grabbing by these companies, the initial sale of occupied land breaks the Cambodian Land Law. The devastating legacy of the Khmer Rouge included the destruction of all land titles. Legislation states if a person occupies a parcel of land for over 5 years they are entitled to receive formal ownership documents for the land. A lack of education and financial resources cause many victims to be unaware of these rights, and is responsible for many not holding official titles for their lands. This leaves them with minimal proof to show that they are the rightful owners.
The evictions are often violent and devastating for the victims. Families are violently forced from their homes and required to find new living arrangements. In many cases, nearly all of their physical belongings are destroyed. Relocation often makes it impossible for children to go to school and for adults to be able to commute to work.
Targeted communities span across the country. Within the nation’s capital alone there is estimated to be over 133,000 victims. Two main areas in Phnom Penh have been targeted, Borei Keila and Boeung Kak. Families from Borei Keila were forcefully evicted and promised new housing in apartment complexes. However the company reduced the number of apartments and left many homeless. Sand drudging of a local lake caused severe flooding in Boeung Kak, destroying home and forcing residents to flee.
These groups, as well as other victims continue to fight for their land rights. Peaceful protests often lead to arrest and punishment, but the women in the communities continue to stand up to corruption. As this state supported violence against women and communities continues, Strey Khmer remains a first-response community leader to help address issues that arise.