Cambodia: Dozens of HIV families forcibly evicted

Fear of persecution grows as residents moved to ‘AIDS village’

Fears are mounting for 31 families living with HIV and AIDS in the Borei Keila area of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, who were forcibly evicted from their homes last month. Twenty of the families were taken to a grossly inadequate resettlement site. The remaining 11 families were given insufficient compensation to rent temporary housing elsewhere.

The resettlement site, Tuol Sambo, is 20 kilometres away from Borei Keila and the families who were moved there on 18 June fear that they will face further persecution because of their HIV status.

Tim Hancock, Campaigns Director of Amnesty International UK, explained: “When Amnesty International visited the site in April the local residents were already calling Tuol Sambo the ‘AIDS village’.

“It is easy to identify where they have been moved to as the housing at the site looks distinct from other homes in the area. The conditions there are also grossly inadequate. Water is supplied by only one well, there is no proper sewage and sanitation system, and no electricity.

“The families do not have the means to pay for transport to central Phnom Penh, in order to receive the anti-retroviral treatment they need, and to travel to their jobs as scavengers and porters in the city. They have been treated as second-class citizens. So it is no surprise that they fear for their future.

“Amnesty International is calling on the Cambodian authorities to provide adequate compensation, shelter and protection for the families as a matter of uttermost urgency.”

The 11 other families were offered US$90 each to rent alternative accommodation for an unspecified time until new cheap flats being built in the area are ready. However, the authorities have given no written guarantees that the families are entitled to one of these.

In 2008, Amnesty International received reports about 27 forced evictions in Cambodia, affecting an estimated 23,000 people, most of whom are living in poverty. Some 150,000 Cambodians are known to be living at risk of forced eviction in the wake of land disputes, land grabbing, agro-industrial and urban redevelopment projects. An estimated 70,000 of these live in Phnom Penh.

The UN's International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and human rights urge governments to ensure universal access to HIV-related goods, services and information, and that they "not only be available, acceptable and of good quality, but within physical reach and affordable for all". Cambodia also has to ensure adequate provision of health care to all its citizens, including access to treatment for people living with HIV and AIDS.

Forced evictions are evictions carried out without adequate notice and consultation with those affected, without legal safeguards and without assurances of adequate alternative accommodation. Under international law, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Cambodia is prohibited from carrying out forced evictions, and must protect people from forced evictions.

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