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Rhona Smith “deeply concerned” with Kampong Chhang relocation sites

Taing Vida / Khmer Times Share:
View of a floating village in Kampong Chnang Province. KT/ Mai Virak

Rhona Smith, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cambodia, has called on Cambodian authorities to ensure that all temporary and permanent relocation sites have the necessary infrastructure.

Related Post: Opinion: Rhona Smith: UN Rapporteur, rights activist or an opposition spokesperson?

Ms Smith yesterday (May 9) reported that she undertook a follow-up field trip to Kampong Chhang to visit people from floating villages whom the authorities have moved onto dry land.

She noted that the villagers are Khmer, Cham (Khmer Islam) and ethnic Vietnamese; they are poor; and are at risk of being forgotten. Many are
living on sub-optimal temporary relocation sites, few on permanent ones.

“Any relocation site must have ample water, sanitation, and electricity; a transport infrastructure, and offer access to an appropriate livelihood to support an adequate standard of living.”

Ms Smith added that she was deeply concerned by the levels of solid/plastic waste and non-secured wastewater at temporary relocation sites, especially at Chhnok Trou. She fears that this will lead to serious pollution when the water rises and negatively impact these people’s right to good health.

Read more: Exclusive interview with UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Rhona Smith

“I am also concerned that many of the relocated houses at the temporary sites, and even at some permanent relocation sites, are currently below the high water line. But they may no longer be able to float when the water inundates the land.”

Ms Smith said she welcomed the advances in land titling and in resolving land disputes. Yet she called on the government to ensure that solutions are comprehensive in nature and encompass all relevant individuals, and that the process for resolving disputes is transparent.

According to the authority report, a total of 4,586 ethnic Cham and Vietnamese families living on the Tonle Sap River are being relocated to six designated areas in Kampong Chhnang city, as well as in Boribor, Kampong Tralach ,and Chol Kiri districts.

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