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UN Investigator Calls for Halt to Forcible Evictions in Cambodia, Iran


A U.N. special investigator on Adequate Housing says the forcible evictions of tens of thousands of poor, ethnic minorities in Cambodia and Iran is a human rights crisis. The investigator is calling on the international community to condemn these violations which target the poor and vulnerable and to press these governments to stop their land grabs.

U.N. special investigator, Miloon Kothari, calls land grabbing and land-swapping a persistent problem throughout Cambodia. He says it is particularly marked in the capital, Phnom Penh, where prime land is confiscated and given to developers to create, what he calls, playgrounds for the rich.

He says the most recent evictions occurred on June 7. At that time, he says some 2,000 families were brutally thrown out of their homes in the Bassac area of Phnom Penh. He says the area was sealed off while police violently removed the inhabitants to another place where conditions are very bad and life threatening.

Shortly after that, he says, he was informed that more evictions were imminent in the Monivong Hospital area.

"We just heard this morning that the eviction is beginning in the Monivong Hospital area," he said. "And, again the same strategies followed where the area is cordoned off. At about three o'clock in the morning today, 150 policemen equipped with automatic rifles, guns, electric batons, tear gas blocked off the roads to the hospital… The intention is to evict 168 families with very little compensation."

Kothari is calling for a moratorium on all evictions.

Regarding Iran, the U.N. investigator says religious and ethnic minorities are subject to discrimination and land confiscation. Last year, in a visit to Ahwaz, in the western Iranian province of Khuzestan bordering Iraq, he says he took testimony from Kurds, Bahais and Arabs.

He says he saw people who had been evicted from their homes and resettled to other areas. He says thousands were living with open sewers, no sanitation, no regular access to water, no electricity and no gas connections.

He says he continues to receive reports about Bahais who have had their land confiscated.

"In the last two years, there has been an increase in the number of Bahai leaders or prominent people who have been arrested and without any charge and then released with very high bail," Kothari said. "And, the only way in which they can post this bail is to put their property as a guarantee. This seems to be another method of expropriation."

He says land confiscation is the main means of dispossessing the Bahai. Kothari says he also has received information that between 200,000 and 250,000 Arab people are being displaced from their villages because of sugar cane plantations and other projects.

The U.N. housing expert says protests by people thrown off their property are increasing. He warns this growing rage could lead to a dangerous destabilization of Iran.

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