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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

3/3/2014 (11 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Relocation brought on by new construction projects threaten many Cambodian families

Some good news issuing forth from Cambodia, for a change: Between 2004 and 2011, Cambodia made startling reductions in poverty. The World Bank says that Cambodia's rate dropped from 52.2 to 20.5 percent "surpassing all expectations." However - many Cambodian families have a hard time making ends meet.

Construction projects have left many poor Cambodians in the lurch -- who are forced to relocate with paltry restitution.

Construction projects have left many poor Cambodians in the lurch -- who are forced to relocate with paltry restitution.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

3/3/2014 (11 months ago)

Published in Asia Pacific

Keywords: Cambodia, poverty, prosperity, construction, relocation


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A more prosperous Cambodia is everywhere evident -- There are abundant paved roads and health clinics, millions of motorbikes and cars and many families have TVs and DVD players.

There is even evidence of a greater leisure class. Many Cambodians now jet to Singapore for the weekend, for nightclubbing and to go shopping.

However, the gap between the rich and poor in Cambodia is in fact widening, according to the World Bank report.

"Because all of the inequality measures are relative, it is possible to reduce inequality - and at the same time, to increase the gap between the poor and the rich," the report notes. "The actual gap between the rich and the poor has increased in absolute terms."

There's a sting to all this recent economic growth. Plans for a major, new airport will see many struggling Cambodian families being evicted from their homes. An ombudsman from the World Bank's financing arm, the IFC (International Finance Corporation), has agreed to serve as a mediator between the embattled community and airport. Should negotiations fail, many of its members are almost certain to see further poverty.

Previous studies have proved that such moves often spell destitution. A 2011 survey by the Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF) of forcibly resettled families found that unemployment rates nearly doubled, dropouts increased by about half, and indebtedness became endemic within communities.

A study conducted two years later focused on families relocated to make way for a railway expansion project. The results were similar. Incomes halved, unemployment soared and nearly everyone in the resettlement site had found themselves in debt after receiving insufficient compensation.   

Those living around the airport have found themselves in a heightened state of anxiety since 2011, when the project was first announced.

"I'm worried about the plans, I'm worried about what's going to happen and that I won't get enough money to be able to buy land," says one resident, who lives with several generations of her family in a single home. Four of them work at garment factories, while her youngest - a 15-year-old - stays at home waiting until she is old enough to get a factory job.

School here is far too expensive and, like her older siblings, she was forced to drop out at a young age. She helps her mother with food that, for the family of eight, costs $7.50 a day.

 "All the money goes on necessities, there is nothing left for savings. When any one gets sick, it's not enough," she laments.

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