As Asian and European leaders gather for high level meetings this month in Cambodia and Laos, the luxury living quarters and extensive security arrangements made for their arrivals have come at considerable human and environmental expense.
Government authorities went on a building spree ahead of this week’s 9th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit being held in the Lao capital, a process that entailed forced evictions of local communities to pave the way for the meeting’s modern facilities.
While leaders pay lip service to various problems facing the globe, among them food security, most of them are likely unaware that the buildings in which they are being hosted and housed have rendered many capital dwellers homeless and without livelihoods. …
Beaumont Smith and Julie Masis
There were scenes of jubilation in Cambodia’s capital last month when a group of 13 imprisoned women – including a 72-year-old grandmother – was set free by an appeal court. The women were arrested in May during peaceful demonstrations against the forced eviction of thousands of families living around Boeung Kak Lake, an area in central Phnom Penh earmarked for a glitzy housing and commercial development.
The company behind the controversial development is known as Shukaku Inc, an obscure firm known to be a front for the interests of Lao Meng Khin, a leading tycoon and senator for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). Two Chinese companies are also reported to be investing in the project, which has seen the lake – once ringed by a bustling community of more than 4,000 families – reduced to a massive sand bank in the center of the city. Most families have already left the site in exchange for resettlement or small cash hand-outs, but a robust protest movement continues to resist eviction. …