Democracy Must Protect Basic Necessity of Access to Housing

Opinion Letter to the Cambodia Daily
Published on Wednesday, February 13, 2008
By: CHAK Sopheap

Democracy Must Protect Basic Necessity of Access to Housing

A democratic government refers to a government?s system which majority concern is seriously taken account. Yet it does not mean that minority voices or concerns are to be ignored. However, I am skeptical about how Cambodian government perceives the nature of democracy and their treatment regarding citizens? human rights, after reading the government spokesman?s response to the Amnesty International?s call on eviction cases (?Group: Gov?t Obliged to Protect Evictees?, Cambodia Daily, Monday February 11 2008, page 31).

The Spokesman claimed that ?there might be abuse, but it is not always abuse? and said only a small portion of the population is affected by force eviction and that among those were illegal squatters. Consider ourselves to be among the affected portion of the population–we would be miserable.

Beyond that, I am concerned that land grabbing and evictions have become the most widespread and pressing human rights problems in Cambodia. Most of the time, city development and illegal squatting area have been used as rational to back government?s actions to forcibly evict people. It is not mean that I do not support the government?s plans to develop country. But the government also has the obligation to protect and guarantee the rights of citizens to make a living and have access to housing.

People categorized as illegal squatters are not to be blamed. It is the government?s responsibility to reinforce the Land Law, hand land title to legitimate citizens without any delay, and display a commitment to anti-corruption efforts.

Finally, I appeal to Cambodian Government to comply with the instruments of housing rights and to extend these rights, as guaranteed by the Constitution and International Covenants, to every citizen regardless of their limited voice or status.

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