The Dark Side of Development

By Chris Baker Evens 7-24-2009

090724-cambodiaDevelopment is a word full of hope. It brings to mind water pumps and rice banks, bridges and education, smiling children and sky-scraping financial institutions. Yet there is a dark side to development.

On Friday, July 17th, at 4 a.m., this dark side showed its face when

[D]ozens of armed police took up positions around Group 78, Phnom Penh, in order to enforce a municipal order that they dismantle their homes or be forcibly removed.

This followed 53 families yesterday "agreeing" to the authorities' demand that they accept an offer of $8,000 compensation or their homes would be forcibly destroyed. Negotiations this morning with the remaining 7 families who had not "agreed" led to a final offer to them of up to $20,000 in compensation which they all accepted, except for one family whose home was destroyed against their will. (Joint media statement by civil society in Cambodia, July 17, 2009)

This community had to make way for development. Their homes were ramshackle and had to give way to pristine apartments. Their homes stand over black water and had to give way to paved sidewalks. Their families rode bicycles or walked to work. They had to give way to the shiny black SUVs of the wealthy. Their children barely make it through the fourth grade. They had to give way to the well-reasoned premise that the city needs this place

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