Sand being poured into Boeung Kak Lake
Original image by Eerling (CC-BY-SA-3.0)
Though intended to provide land tenure security for the poor, thousands of families have been involuntarily displaced from Boeung Kak Lake community as a result of this project.
Location: Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Total Cost: US$33.90 million
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.
A complaint on the Cambodia Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP) was filed with the World Bank Inspection Panel on September 4, 2009 by the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), with the support of Bridges Across Borders Cambodia (BABC), on behalf of representatives of more than 4000 families living around Boeung Kak who have suffered or are currently threatened with forced eviction. It alleges that the Bank breached its operational policies on Involuntary Resettlement and Project Supervision by failing to adequately supervise the Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP), which denied land titles to the Boeung Kak families shortly before the area was leased by the Government to a private developer. The request was registered on September 24, 2009 and the Panel submitted its final eligibility report to the Board of Executive Directors on March 31, 2010.
On November 23, 2010, the World Bank’s Inspection Panel released its Investigation Report, where it found that the Bank breached its operational policies by failing to properly design and supervise the LMAP. The Board of Executive Directors met on March 8, 2012 to decide what action to take in light of the findings of the Bank’s Inspection Panel and then-World Bank President Robert Zoellick publicly criticized the Cambodian government for its disrespect for property rights and demanded it stop forced evictions. Management proposed to report back to the Board on the implementation of the Action Plan within 60 days and gave the government an ultimatum to either cooperate with the Bank or have all current and future funding reviewed. The government instead issued a brutal crackdown on the Boeung Kak Lake population, prompting the World Bank to freeze all lending in the country until the grievances are addressed and a negotiation is reached.
Read more about the Inspection Panel CaseInspection Panel Case, LMAP, World Bank website
Civil Society AnalysisUntitled: Tenure Insecurity and Inequality in the Cambodian Land Sector, Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia, Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, and Jesuit Relief Services, October 2009
Boeung Kak Open Letter to World Bank President Kim, May 9, 2013
Cambodia: World Bank Remedial Action Update, Inclusive Development International, April 2013
CSO letter to President Zoellick and President Elect Kim, May 30, 2012
PRESS RELEASE: World Bank project tied to forced evictions in Cambodia, Housing Rights Task Force, March 8, 2011
Briefing Note: World Bank titling project implicated in forced evictions in Cambodia, Bank Information Center, January 28, 2011
NGO letter to World Bank Board about LMAP in Cambodia, November 18, 2009
Media CoverageWorld Bank doesn’t punish Cambodia on evictions, by Mike Eckel, Associated Press, May 16, 2011 (Associated Press Archives)
The great Asian land grab: How a World Bank program helped displace tens of thousands of urban poor, by Mike Eckel, Foreign Policy, May 13, 2011 (Foreign Policy online)
Aid donor battles Cambodia over forced evictions, by Mike Eckel, Associated Press, May 13, 2011 (San Diego Union-Tribune)
Official DocumentsCambodia: Land Management and Administration Project, World Bank
World Bank approves credit for land management and administration project in Cambodia, World Bank Press Release, February 2002
Cambodia Land Management and Administration Project summary, World Bank, September 2009
Statement from the World Bank on Termination by Royal Government of Cambodia of the Land Management and Administration Project, World Bank Press Release, September 2009
Inspection Panel Case, LMAP, World Bank website
Cambodia Land Administration Support Program, Canadian International Development Agency website
Useful WebsitesInclusive Development International, Boeung Kak Lake Case
Center On Housing Rights and Evictions, Cambodia page
Housing Rights Task Force
Please contact BIC for updates and corrections on this project page.