To make way for a Ministry of Tourism garden, 20 families with HIV-positive members have been evicted from their homes and moved outside of the city, reports the Phnom Penh Post.
The newspaper writes, "Despite municipal officials claiming that residents left voluntarily and will be better off at the new site, which has been condemned by local and international rights groups as being unsuitable for human habitation, residents said they were unhappy with the move" (Shay/Chamroeun, Phnom Penh Post, 6/18).
According to the China Post, "[t]he evictions from the Borei Keila community came after several months of strong protests by the families, who complained that they would be without basic services, have no means of income and lose access to medical treatment at the new location." The China Post reports that other residents in the neighborhood not infected with HIV were "resettled in apartments. The 20 families evicted Thursday were not given that option."
Naly Pilorge, director of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, said in a statement, "It is tragic that the government has chosen to create a permanent AIDS colony where people will face great stigma and discrimination," adding that the relocation area is far from medical services (China Post, 6/19). U.N.'s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights country representative Christophe Peschoux said, "What has been prepared so far is a warehouse-type shelter without running water or electricity," adding it "is not appropriate to receive families that have members with HIV." According to Peschoux, the U.N. submitted an alternative to the plan that would have integrated the now uprooted families into the community (Phnom Penh Post, 6/18).
According to the AP/Washington Post, "Officials say they evicted the families because they had illegally settled on state land where the government now wants to build new offices for the Ministry of Tourism. The evictions were carried out Thursday without force after a week of negotiations. About 50 police stood guard, helping the families to collect their belongings" (Cheng, AP/Washington Post, 6/18)
The secretary of state at the Ministry of Tourism "said the government had helped the community with all its available resources, and that no matter what the government did, the community would still have demanded more" (Phnom Penh Post, 6/18).
This article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.