Thousands march on World Habitat Day, authorities accept petition

5 October 2015

On World Habitat Day 2015, authorities accepted a petition from hundreds of protestors who marched to demand housing rights and an end to forced evictions in Cambodia.

On the morning of 5 October, community members, monks, children, tuk-tuk drivers and civil society organizations gathered at Dey Krahorm – a former eviction site – to march to the National Assembly. The crowd wore black tshirts and hats made from palm leaves, a traditional housing material in Cambodia. Representatives of more than 150 urban and rural communities and civil society organisations were invited to take part.

Outside the National Assembly, community members delivered speeches and monks offered a blessing asking for an end to forced eviction. Helium balloons were attached to model houses and released to highlight the importance of housing as a human right. Children displayed their own model ideal houses amidst banners and songs.

Police blockades prevented protestors from continuing their march to the ministry buildings. Instead, officials from the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Land Management and Municipality of Phnom Penh came to the protestors and accepted the petitions in front of the National Assembly. Representatives of the National Assembly came out to accept the petition. Authorities from Chamcarmon district district also accepted a model house.

The march participants included many people personally affected by forced evictions. As one participant expressed, “I am here to demand housing rights. I was evicted and now don’t have a house, this right to has been denied for me.”

Others shared what the event meant to them.
“I am happy to be here to affirm our human right to housing”.
“I want to request of companies developing land: don’t abuse the rights of the people.”
“I want to ask the government: do not evict people and send them to a far away place.”

STT’s Executive Director, Mr Ee Sarom, spoke to media about the right to adequate housing and forced evictions in Cambodia. “People here are those who affected by land and housing right issues. They were forcibly evicted from their land and housing,” he said. “They have come here to show the government about their problems and seek a solution.”

The march commemorated the 30th anniversary of World Habitat Day, first designated in 1985. As one participant expressed: “I feel encouraged to be here, because today is an international day. It is not just about Cambodian communities abused by the Government, we celebrate with people all over the world.”