The Cambodia Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP) was approved by the World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors on February 26, 2002. The World Bank committed $24.3 million in loans to the project from IDA, the Bank’s public sector lending arm for low-income countries, but only $19.23 million was disbursed before the project was cancelled in 2009.
The LMAP was established with the stated aim of improving security of tenure for the poor and reducing land conflicts in Cambodia by systematically registering land and issuing titles across the country. However, a report released by BABC and COHRE in October 2009 found that land-grabbing and forced evictions have escalated significantly over the last ten years, while many vulnerable households have been arbitrarily excluded from the titling system. This exclusion has denied these households protection against land-grabbing and adequate compensation for their expropriated land, often thrusting them into conditions of extreme poverty.
The World Bank acknowledged in August 2009 that the safeguards had been breached and approached the Cambodian Government to discuss measures to bring the project back into compliance. The Government responded by abruptly ending its agreement with the World Bank on LMAP in September 2009, citing the Bank’s “complicated conditions” as the reason for its move. Following the release of the Inspection Panel’s investigation report on the project in March 2011, the World Bank froze all lending to the country as a consequence of the government’s unwillingness to cooperate on this project.
101 civil society organizations from Cambodia and around the world sent a letter to then-President Zoellick and President-Elect Kim in May 2012 to urge them to maintain the freeze on new lending to Cambodia until a comprehensive agreement is reached with the community, as the Bank has publicly committed to do, and the human rights defenders are released from prison following the Cambodian Government’s brutal crackdown on the Boeung Kak Lake (BKL) community. After the lending freeze, the government granted a 12.44 ha land concession to the people of the BKL community, but it only benefited the 650 families who had not been evicted from the land yet, a mere 15% of the total impacted families. In December 2012, the World Bank declared that it would be lifting the lending freeze despite the fact that there has been no fair resolution for the 61 families that were excluded from the project land concessions and the 3500 families that have been involuntarily displaced without adequate compensation. Residents of the Boeung Kak Lake community sent an open letter to President Kim on May 9, 2013 asking him to honor the commitment made by Bank Management to support the community in accordance with the Resettlement Policy Framework before lending to Cambodia continues.
Background on the Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP)
The multi-donor supported Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP) began in 2002 as the first phase of the Government’s land reform program and was established to give effect to key provisions of the 2001 Land Law. The project was originally envisioned as the first phase of a program of land reform to be implemented over a 15-year period, with the objectives of strengthening land tenure security and land markets, preventing or resolving land disputes, managing land and natural resources in an equitable, sustainable and efficient manner, and promoting equitable land distribution. LMAP intended to focus on the development of the legal and regulatory framework; institutional development; land titling and registration; strengthening land dispute resolution mechanisms; and land management.
The primary donors to the project were the World Bank (pledging $24.3 million), GTZ ($3.5 million in technical assistance), and the Government of Finland ($3.5 million in technical assistance). The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) joined the project in 2004 committing more than CN$10 million in both funding and technical assistance through to 2012.
Background on Boeung Kak and forced evictions in Cambodia
Spanning 90 hectares in central north Phnom Penh, Boeung Kak Lake is one of the only large open spaces left in Cambodia’s capital city. Prior to the recent evictions, approximately 4000 families lived on and around the lake with many depending on the lake for their livelihood. Families have been living around the lake since the early 1980s when they returned to the city following the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime. Most of these families have legal rights to their land under Cambodia’s 2001 Land Law.
Despite the legitimate claims to the land of many of the residents around Boeung Kak, when the titling team from the World Bank-financed Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP) adjudicated the area in early 2007, the residents were denied title en masse. In the same month, the Cambodian government entered into a 99-year lease agreement with a private developer, Shukaku Inc., over 133 hectares including the lake and surrounding areas. Shukaku Inc. is headed by Lao Meng Khin, a Senator and major donor to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, who is also director of the controversial logging company Pheapimex.
Families living in the development zone began facing pressure and intimidation to leave the area in August 2008, when the developer commenced filling in the lake as part of its development plans. While few details about the development have been made public, it is estimated that approximately 20,000 people will be displaced. Included in this figure are the more than 1000 families that have already been evicted without their land rights being properly adjudicated and acknowledged. In the absence of any legal protections, these families accepted woefully inadequate compensation under conditions of duress. This was in direct violation of the World Bank’s Policy on Involuntary Resettlement, which the Cambodian government was contractually bound to respect in conjunction with LMAP.
Evictions and forcible confiscation of land continue to rank as one of Cambodia’s most pervasive human rights problems. In Phnom Penh alone, approximately 133,000 residents, or 10% of the city’s population of over 1.3 million have been evicted since 1990. While precise nationwide figures are difficult to ascertain, the rate of forced evictions appear to have increased in conjunction with, amongst other things, the granting of concessions over vast tracts of land to private investors. Meanwhile, rural landlessness has skyrocketed from around 13% in 1997 to as high as 25% in 2007.
Coupled with the absence of tenure security, rapidly increasing land values have led to rampant land grabbing by powerful and wealthy elites, to the severe detriment of local communities. The pretext of development is used to justify the forced relocation of low-income households to remote and desolate resettlement sites. However, frequently the projects driving this displacement are beset with corruption and unjust practices, perpetuating a development model that favors powerful interests at the expense of deeper poverty and increased hardship for the most vulnerable. The impending Boeung Kak Lake development is the largest and most visible of these development projects.
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