Boeung Chhouk community is an urban poor community which is located in Russey Keo district of Phnom Penh. The community first settled on the land in 1992 and was organized in 2009 by the Housing Rights Task Force. The 52 families living in this community primarily earn a living by working as motor taxi drivers, factory workers, dishwashers, vendors, teachers and rubbish collectors. Since 2015, the community submitted numerous letters to the Municipality of Phnom Penh, the National Authority of Land Dispute Resolution and local government offices to request land tenure security and improved local infrastructure.
Situation Before Project Implementation
Boueng Chhouk community was unofficially informed by the local authorities that they would have to evict due to an upcoming road expansion project. They were told they would have to relocate as their houses were close to the road and they lived on public state land. Prior to engaging with STT, the community was unaware of their land and housing rights. Community members had never received training on the 2001 Land Law, Circular 03, or any regulations related to land and housing rights. They also did not have links to other urban community networks.
Activities Supported by the project
In 2019, the Community Empowerment Project Team invited community representatives from Boeung Chhouk to attend community exchange visits in both Phnom Penh and the province in order to provide the community exposure to other communities facing similar situations. The communities shared knowledge and experience on advocacy work, community organizing and empowerment as well as their concerns on their living conditions such as access to social and public services, basic infrastructure, household finances and employment opportunities. Community representatives were invited to participate in the quarterly meetings that were conducted four times per year. The quarterly meetings provided an opportunity for urban communities to meet each other and share issues, experiences, knowledge, and to mobilize networks. In addition, STT provided the community with training sessions on the 2001 Land Law, Circular 03, Human Rights, non-violence practices, basics of ICT and social media (Facebook, WhatsApp, Signal). The purpose of the training was to strengthen the community’s capacity to protect their land and housing rights, and to claim land tenure security. The community also participated in the National Forum on Housing Policy that was held by the Ministry of Land Management Urban Planning and Construction, which allowed them the opportunity to raise questions about housing policy to the government.
Changes and Successes as a Result of the Project
Boeung Chhouk community has become a strong community and built good relationship with other urban poor communities and local authorities. Community members have understood their rights and have capacity for conducting do advocacy activities more independently with critical methods and confidence in order to discuss issues and seek solutions from the government. Since the community members have joined the trainings, meetings, workshops, forums, and exchange learning visits, they have gained a better understanding of human rights, land and housing rights, and the main legal documents required for land tenure applications. The community has also become more proactive in submitting petitions to local authorities or relevant government institutions for seeking intervention on their land rights.
Additionally, community members joined other communities and civil society in international events that promote human rights such as World Habitat Day, International Human Rights Day and International Women’s Day. In addition, community members have started conducting internal monthly meetings if they have urgent tasks to be discussed or require support from NGOs like STT. The community members have reported that their monthly meetings make them feel empowered and strengthened as discussion of various issues is promoted and there is knowledge sharing of experiences and approaches for claiming land tenure.
The most notable success for Boeung Chhouk community is that on 27 October 2019, community members participated in a meeting with the Municipality of Phnom Penh in which they were allocated plots of land per family. Each family received a 4 meters x 15 meters plot which is located in close proximity (0.5kms away) from their current location. After struggling for 10 years, the community members are relieved and eagerly waiting for the official land tittles from Khan Russey Keo authorities. The community members are hopeful that they will receive the official land tittle documents in early 2020.
Mrs. Khiev Chenda is the community leader of Boeung Chhouk. She is 47 years old and lives with her daughter. Mrs. Chenda works as a construction worker and earns about $10 per day. Mrs. Chenda told STT: “I am so happy that my community received a solution though some more time is needed as we are waiting for the official land title document. Without STT’s support, our community would be very difficult to achieve the recent changes in the community. STT helped me and other community members to understand human rights, land rights, housing rights and how to advocate for a proper solution.”