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Joint Media Statement: “Stop Destroying Our City”

4th September 2014

On September 02 ,2014, the Phnom Penh municipal Governor Pa Socheatvong called for the condemnation and demolition of the White Building, based on concerns about the safety of the building, stating that negotiations are underway for the resettlement of residents to the Chroy Changva district.

We, the undersigned groups, call for a full independent building safety audit assessment, with results to be made available to the affected families and civil society. The results of this assessment should inform a public consultation with the White Building residents and civil society regarding a development plan for the site.

We also call for the reconsideration of the demolition of the building and resettlement of affected families, urging the Phnom Penh Municipality to consider onsite upgrading as the priority option for the White Building. The site is home to approximately 600 families, some of which have been living there since the re-settlement of Phnom Penh in 1979. To this end, Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT) and residents of the White Building have already been carrying out upgrading works – including safety upgrading to the stairwells, roof reparation, and painting of the interior communal areas.

“The Municipality must carry out onsite upgrading instead of demolishing the White Building. Phnom Penh’s heritage belongs to our capital’s residents. The City Hall should respect the residents’ right to the city.” Ee Sarom, Acting Executive Director, Sahmakum Teang Tnaut.

We hereby wish to highlight that the resettlement site under negotiation in Chroy Changva district is located in the outskirts of Phnom Penh, and the relocation of families will undoubtedly affect their livelihoods due to the decrease of income generation opportunities andseperation from essential services in the city (health and education facilities). In the undesirable case that resettlement is decided upon, we call for the Phnom Penh Municipality to follow international human rights conventions on resettlement, such as the United Nations Right to Adequate Housing.

“Without adequate housing, residents of the White Building including children, will not be able to live in decent manner. The government has an obligation to consult with both residents and civil society on development of its city.” Naly Pilorge, Director, LICAHDO

While the municipal Governor is making statements affecting 600 families, we wish to highlight that important stakeholders such as residents of the White Building community and civil society have not been consulted about this condemnation and resettlement plan. Historically, matters concerning the White Building have not been transparent – as shown by the site’s exclusion from the adjudication area for preparation of the Systematic Land Registration Process carried out in 2011 (as well as 6 communities from Tonle Bassac commune).

The situation for families’ remains uncertain as the municipality is not sharing any information. White Building resident, Keo OrRyroth, expressed the concerns of those affected:  “I first heard about this decision to demolish our homes on Hangmeas TV on September 1, not through the government. I have never seen or heard of anyone coming to carry out safety checks, and I am very worried about us all having to move from here. I have lived here since 1979 and I don’t want to move – especially as the roof is fixed now and the leaks have stopped. If the majority of residents decide to leave, I will have to as well – but only with appropriate compensation allowing us to buy a new property in the city centre.”

For more information, please contact:

  • Mr Ee Sarom, Acting Executive Director (Sahmakum Teang Tnaut),  Phone: (+855) 89 666 036, Email: sarom@teangtnaut.org (Khmer and English)

List of civil society groups who endorse the joint statement:

  • Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
  • Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT)
  • Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF)
  • Community Peace building Network (CPN)
  • Community Legal Education Center (CLEC)
  • Equitable Cambodia (EC)
  • People In Need (PIN)
  • Cambodian Youth Network (CYN)
  • Cambodian Food and Service Worker Federation (CFSWF)
  • Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community (CCFC)
  • Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA)
  • Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR)
  • Building Community Voice (BCV)

You also can find the original statement here (Khmer version and English version)