Cambodia: Families living with HIV/Aids evicted

Amnesty International has condemned the Phnom Penh authorities for evicting 20 families living with HIV/AIDS from their homes in Borei Keila this morning. They have been moved outside the city to a resettlement site, Tuol Sambo, where there is no clean water or electricity and limited access to medical services.

Brittis Edman, Amnesty International’s Cambodia researcher, said:

“Tuol Sambo is grossly inadequate and the authorities are well aware of this. It is often referred to as ‘the AIDS village’ and the inhabitants live with no access to clean water, electricity or proper sanitation.

“The site’s long distance from the city hampers access to health services and jobs, adding to the risks. The families have urgent humanitarian needs, including clean water, larger living space, access to medical services and food supplies. There is a real risk that the health of the evicted families will deteriorate there.”

Tuol Sambo is in a semi-rural area where the housing is built from green metal sheets. When Amnesty International visited the site in April 2009, it was perceived by villagers in the vicinity as a centre for people living with HIV/AIDS.

The affected families have expressed fears that they will face further discrimination and stigmatisation because of their HIV status if forced to live in this separate, distinct enclave. Prejudice against these families may be exacerbated by their poverty and lack of job opportunities.

When evicted, the families were compensated with inadequate re-housing in Tuol Sambo and 50 kilograms of rice, soy sauce, fish sauce, water jars and 250 USD from the Municipality of Phnom Penh and the Ministry of Tourism. Last Friday they were coerced into the move and told that anyone who disagreed would not receive compensation.

Brittis Edman said:

“It's unacceptable that the authorities didn’t explore other alternatives before deciding to evict these 20 vulnerable families. Tuol Sambo shouldn’t have been an option.”

Borei Keila is a large poor urban community which the government designated as a social land concession for residential development in 2003. The Borei Keila concession was intended to be a land-sharing arrangement between a private developer, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and residents. The agreement gave the developer 2.6 hectares of land for commercial development, in exchange for constructing new housing for the original residents on two hectares of the land. The remainder, consisting of 10 hectares, was to be returned to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.

In March 2007 the Municipality of Phnom Penh resettled the families who lived in Borei
Keila against their will and reportedly with force, in temporary shelters built mostly out of corrugated metal sheets. The authorities told them that they would stay there for a few months only, to pave way for the construction of a number of residential multi-storey houses.

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