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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

World Bank To Inspect Lake Land Management

The World Bank’s inspection arm will conduct an inquiry into a land administration project, following complaints that the plan failed to protect the land rights of residents around the Boeung Kak lake development.

The World Bank’s inspection arm will conduct an inquiry into a land administration project, following complaints that the plan failed to protect the land rights of residents around the Boeung Kak lake development.

The Center of Housing Rights and Eviction says the $23.4-million Land Management and Administration Project failed to register land titles for the lake residents and in fact weakened their rights to customary land ownership.

The center requested an inquiry last year, and in a final report on the World Bank Web site, the Inspection Panel said the request warranted an investigation to assess management’s compliance with World Bank policies and procedures “and related issues of harm” with the project.

“The Panel would need to conduct an appropriate review of all relevant facts and applicable policies and procedures,” the report concludes. “This can only be done in the context of an investigation of the issues of compliance and harm raised by the Request.”

Some 4,000 families in the Boeung Kak community, the majority of them impoverished, face eviction from their land around the lake, which is slated for residential and commercial development by Shikaku, Inc. Some of them say they have lived in the area for 20 years.

The Center of Housing Rights and Eviction, which filed the complaint on behalf of the residents, welcomed the decision, but urged immediate action.

“The housing rights of hundreds of families are at stake at this very moment,” Salih Booker, the group’s executive director, said in a statement Friday.

World Bank officials have previously met with government officials, including within the Phnom Penh municipality, to address the concerns of Boeung Kak residents, but so far the sides have not been able to break the impasse.

Some residents say they have received fair compensation for moving, while others say they don’t want to move to a relocation site on the far outskirts of the capital.

Nonn Theany, director general of the Ministry of Land Management, the key government partner in the land management project, said the World Bank had a right to inspection but should inspect “its own staff.”

“The government has already terminated our partnership on the LMAP project,” she said.

The government ended the program in late 2009, claiming it contained too many conditions. Nonn Theavy said when the government worked with the World Bank on the project, “they didn’t say how we were doing.”

“But when there was an inspection team coming, they would just find our faults,” she said. “We had annual evaluation reports. Only recently, when an NGO spoke out about the eviction at Boeung Kak lake, they linked the work to that case.”

The project could only register undisputed land, she said.

“When we saw a disputed piece of land with the ownership not clearly determined, we had to skip that place,” she said.

David Pred, Cambodia’s director for Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia, which works with the lake residents, said the Cambodian government had “walked away from these families and refused to partner with the World Bank to find a positive solution for them.”

“The Bank cannot walk away from these families now just because the government has closed the door,” he said. “The Bank has a moral and a legal responsibility to provide reparations to the people it has acknowledged have been harmed by this project. This is an important test of the accountability of the World Bank.”
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Cambodia re-allows S. Korean men to marry Cambodian women+

PHNOM PENH, April 27 (AP) - (Kyodo)—Cambodia has lifted its suspension of processing of marriages between South Korean men and Cambodian women after revising its marriage regulations in an effort to prevent human trafficking, a government official said Tuesday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong told Kyodo News his ministry has notified all foreign embassies in Phnom Penh of the new marriage regulations that require a foreign man wanting to marry a Cambodian woman to be present with her in Cambodia during all stages of the marriage process.

The temporary suspension was announced last month for fear that Cambodian girls from the countryside were still being trafficked as prospective brides for foreign men, South Koreans in particular.

In 2008, Cambodia issued a similar temporary suspension on international marriage processing but it applied to all marriages with foreign men, not specifically those involving South Korean men.

That move followed a report by the International Organization for Migration that warned about networks of brokers or matchmaking businesses that had been arranging "fake, deceitful" marriages to bring Cambodian women to foreign places like Taiwan or South Korea to work as housemaids or prostitutes.

The report said from 2004 through 2007, some 2,500 Cambodian women had married South Korean men through brokers, while a Cambodian fact- finding mission sent to Taiwan in 2007 showed that 5,219 Cambodian women were living there, some of whom had been trafficked outright and many of whom claimed they had endured abuse.
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Total pays Cambodia 28 mln dollars for oil exploration: PM

French oil company Total has paid 28 million dollars for the rights to explore an area in the Gulf of Thailand, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen said Tuesday.

The Cambodian government, during a visit by Hun Sen to Paris, announced its decision in July last year to grant Total the right to search for oil and natural gas in the country's offshore "Block 3".

Disclosing the price paid by Total for the first phase of the search for oil in the area, Hun Sen said that eight million dollars of the money would go towards a "social fund".

"Total offered the highest (bid) among the companies," he said.

Total will pay an additional 20 million dollars if it starts drilling for oil in the offshore area, Hun Sen added.

At the same time the premier denied Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP Billiton paid a large bribe for an exploration contract in Cambodia, saying that money had also gone into a social fund.

Total "also has paid this kind of money," Hun Sen said during a meeting between the government and private sectors.

Following the discovery of oil in 2005, Cambodia was quickly feted as the region's next potential petro-state, but production has stalled as the government and Chevron appear to have failed to agree over revenue sharing.

Hun Sen said earlier this month he would terminate his country's contract with Chevron if the US energy giant does not begin oil production from offshore fields by late 2012.

Concerns have also been raised over how Cambodia -- one of the world's most corrupt countries -- would use its new-found oil and gas wealth.
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