A comparative analysis of recent resettlement projects in Phnom Penh
for Community Development
Urban Resource Centre Cambodia
Monitoring, Impact Assessment, Information and Communication
Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation of the impacts
of Project CMB/00/003: Phnom Penh Urban Poverty Reduction Project
A comparative analysis of recent resettlement projects in Phnom Penh
This report is the product of a joint project to develop capacity for participatory action-research in Phnom Penh, part
of the Urban Poverty Reduction Strategy of the Municipality of Phnom Penh. The main partners are the United
Nations Human Settlement Programme ()UN-Habitat), Cambodian Volunteers for Community Development, and
the Urban Resource Centre Cambodia, and the Municipality of Phnom Penh and all its representatives at the Khan,
Sangkat, and Phum levels.
Principal investigator: Pierre Fallavier firstname.lastname@example.org, consultant to UN-HABITAT.
Research team and contributors: Sin Viroth and Pheng Sokhorn from Cambodian Volunteers for Community
Development (CVCD); Noun Mountha, Men Sopheapkerya, Sophal Roda, and Svay Ratha from the Urban
Resource Centre Cambodia (URC); Project team members from UN-HABITAT project CMB/00/003.
The method of data collection is detailed in the documents: Main Methodology of the PME; Participatory
Assessment techniques; Household-level interview guidelines; Data collection and coding. See appendix for
specific survey instrument used in this study.
The views, figures and estimates are the sole responsibility of the principal investigator.
PART I - CASE PRESENTATION..........................................................................................1
1. Ko Kleang 1.....................................................................................................................1
1. a. Overview and contribution of the case.....................................................................1
1. b. The development process as an example of collaborative efforts ...........................1
1. c. Achievements and Difficulties ..................................................................................2
2. Ko Kleang 2.....................................................................................................................3
2. a. Overview and contribution of the case.....................................................................3
2. b. An uncoordinated development process..................................................................3
2. c. Achievements and Difficulties ..................................................................................4
3. Samaki 1 .........................................................................................................................4
3. a. Overview and contribution of the case.....................................................................4
3.b. Summary of the development process......................................................................5
3. c. Achievements and Difficulties ..................................................................................6
PART II - ANALYSIS IN TERMS OF THE POVERTY REDUCTION STRATEGY.................7
4. Improving access to basic services.................................................................................7
5. Enhancing the potential for income generation...............................................................8
6. Strengthening the governance process...........................................................................9
Comparative analysis of resettlements in PP i
This analysis compares three current resettlement projects around Phnom Penh to point some
of the difficulties these projects encounter and suggest potential improvements.
A first part of the paper presents the development process of the three resettlements, and the
impacts of the different styles of intervention on the current living conditions in the
A second part analyzes how the stakeholders involved in designing the projects could learn
from the achievements and limitations of these different approaches to improve these projects
and design new ones. This analysis is organized along the three strategic directions of the
Urban Poverty Reduction Strategy in Phnom Penh: (i) the improvement of access to basic
services (including provision of housing, tenure, physical and social infrastructure), (ii) the
development of income generation potentials (training, access to financial services, improved
marketing opportunities), and (iii) the strengthening of local governance (involvement of
communities in decision-making, reduction of corruption).
The data presented come from field notes collected since August 2001. Given the short
history of the relocation processes, the data and the analysis presented in this paper must be
taken as a work-in-progress, aimed at encouraging constructive discussion, and with no
pretension to provide more than a few reflections to the debate between the Municipality, the
UN, NGOs and representative of the communities.
PART I - CASE PRESENTATION
1. Ko Kleang 1
1. a. Overview and contribution of the case
Ko Kleang 1 community was created in early 2001 in the close suburbs of Phnom Penh. 111
families moved on this one-hectare plot from a squatter community they occupied since 1990.
The relocation process is an example of a positive collaboration between a squatter
community, the Municipality of Phnom Penh (MPP), the UNCHS, and NGOs that led to the
most successful resettlement so far out of the half-dozen experiences between 1998 and 2001
in Phnom Penh. It can provide good lessons for the MPP to direct its efforts to improve the
living conditions of 15,000 to 30,000 families from low-income communities over the coming
years. It will also warn of the difficulties to elaborate a successful resettlement project.
1. b. The development process as an example of collaborative efforts
Inhabitants of Ko Kleang 1 used to live on public land in a squatter community along the wall
of a municipal hospital. Their main problem then was the lack of access to water and to
sanitation services. They lived close to employment opportunities, but under a constant threat
of eviction by the municipality authorities.
Along the years, the community leader worked with UNCHS and NGOs to prepare the
relocation of the settlement. In 1998, with the support of UNCHS and World Vision
International (WVI), she devised a project in which WVI would contribute $25,000 to the
purchase of land, and UNCHS would provide technical assistance for housing and basic
services. During the two years it took for the community to discuss the relocation process, the
price of land yet soared above $25,000. By 2000, the leader negotiated with the MPP and
obtained the remaining $10,000 necessary to buy the land. The community then bought a
one-hectare former rice field 6 km from the city center.
Comparative analysis of resettlements in PP 1
As people wanted to plan for the new site before moving in, they set up a community planning
committee in their old site. At first, they planned for a well drilling (which later showed useless
as it was very difficult to reach the water table in the area), with support from UNCHS and the
MPP. After the failure of the drilling, they prepared another proposal with Action Nord Sud
(ANS) to get water connection from a private seller in the town of Pochentong, 7 km away. For
this, Ko Kleang 1 gathered with the neighboring Ko Kleang 2 community to raise $2000 each,
as a contribution to the connection (the Municipality and ANS were responsible for the main
connection, and the community for individual connections). For Ko Kleang 1, this represented
$23 per family, which some could not pay. As the leader could only collect $1500 from the
better-off families, she then agreed with the MPP so that labor from the community would
count as in-kind contribution. This allowed her to raise $525, with over half coming back to the
community in the form of wages. Everyone was thus able to get a water connection.
The leader then helped community members prepare applications for housing loans to the
Urban Poor Development Fund (UPDF, an NGO supported by ACHR and the MPP). Ninety-
one families were able to receive $500-loans repayable over 5 years. The other 20 families
were perceived as unsolvable and were left on their own to find support to purchase building
The leader was further able to negotiate with the MPP that people would only move on the
new site after the rain season, and after all services would be ready. The resettlement was
thus planned step by step, and people came regularly to work on their house construction
before they would definitely move on the site. They were neither surprised nor disappointed by
the resettlement process, because they planned for it incrementally and saw the results.
1. c. Achievements and Difficulties
(+) Most families received housing loans and were able to build a house. Better-off families
built concrete houses one or two storey high. After less than three month on the site,
most of these houses were completed for a cost of $1800 to $3000 (for a small shop
owner making $1800 a year, this is 1 to 1.67 annual income, a very low ratio). The
houses are of rather good quality as the owners hired skilled workers to build them.
Poorer families built simple houses of old wood and zinc. These wooden houses cost
from 400 to $600 (for a construction worker, this is about a year of income, or 2.5 years
for an unskilled laborer). Most followed the plans of the ‘dream house’ they had drawn
with support from the Urban Resource Centre (designed to cost $400, i.e., the amount
of a UPDF housing loan). The 20 families too poor to receive a housing loan have only
built ‘temporary’ houses with recycled wood and zinc they brought from their old
(+) All families have received a card to acknowledge their occupancy of the plots. After five
years of residence in the community, the Municipality will exchange these cards against
official land titles. Residents are very proud of owning a house, not being regarded as
illegal dwellers anymore and enjoying the same rights of tenure as other citizens.
(+) Ko Kleang 1 community receives piped water from a private supplier located in
Pochentong. Families have individual counters and pay 3000 Riels per thousand liters.
In comparison, a 200-liter drum from a push-cart water sellers costs 2500 to 3000 Riels,
(i.e., 12,500 to 15,000 Riels per thousand liters).
(+) Most children go to a public school within walking distance of Ko Kleang 1. With the
support of CVCD, the community runs an informal education program for the youngest
(+/-) Access to employment opportunities was easier in the hospital community as people
lived closer to their places of employment. In contrast, no work is available near Ko
Kleang 1 and people must pay high transportation costs to go to work in the city. Yet,
Comparative analysis of resettlements in PP 2
because of the better living environment, people spend much less on health costs, and
despite lower incomes, they say that they feel much happier here than near the
(+/-) Some better-off families obtain electricity from a private provider for 1000 Riels per kw.
Poor families still use oil lamps or candles.
(+/-) Although there is no major threats of floods as the site had been elevated before
building the houses, rainwater and wastewater stagnate in the streets as there is no
drainage or sewerage system.
(+/-) UNCHS supported the construction of individual toilets, but with the rain, they fill up and
human waste leaks outsides of the tanks, forming pools in the streets and creating
health hazards. The families who could not afford to contribute to toilet construction use
rice fields around the settlement.
(-) There is no health post in the community. For the poorest, transportation cost to receive
health care in Phnom Penh remains a barrier to good healthcare.
(-) There is no bus service to the nearest road (7 km away) that leads to Phnom Penh.
Most people use moto-taxis or bicycle to reach the main road. Some residents have
their own motorcycle or bicycle but none has a car. Because of the unlit paths and the
poor quality of the dirt roads, people feel unsafe going out of the community at dark.
(-) There is no organized solid waste management and the majority of people throw
garbage in open spaces in the community, or in the surrounding rice fields.
2. Ko Kleang 2
2. a. Overview and contribution of the case
Ko Klean 2 is a resettled community located a few hundred meters from Ko Kleang 1. The
resettlement process was very different than in the first case: 110 families were relocated from
three different squatter settlements, which sites the Municipality wanted to redevelop. Very
little community consultation was involved in the resettlement process, but lengthy
negotiations were held to settle on monetary compensation for the relocation. Members of
each community received very different levels of compensation.
The process exemplifies the difficulty to bring together into a single community people coming
from different settlements, especially under time constraint.
2. b. An uncoordinated development process
The Municipality provided free plots and basic road access to the settlement. UNCHS and
NGOs provided toilets, water access and community organization. Yet, they only started in
August 2000, while as soon as March, the MPP forcedly relocated a first group of ten families
(without monetary compensation) on the bare site with a few planks they salvaged from their
old houses, some plastic sheeting and 20kg of rice per family.
The subsequent relocation process was devised in three stages. First, 79 families from Psar
Toul Kork came after receiving $600 each in compensation from the MPP. Three other
families later came from the same community after negotiating $1500 to $2000 each. A last
group arrived with 5 families from Toul Kork and received $1500 each.
Despite external support, the inhabitants dearly lack the capacity for planning the community.
The density of the buildings and lack of harmony in their disposition are striking and reflect the
overall uncoordinated development activities on the site. Roads are untidy and awkwardly cut
by constructions in their middle. There is no public space and very little sense of community.
Expensive brick buildings stand next to wood shacks. Streets are filled with garbage and pools
Comparative analysis of resettlements in PP 3
of stagnant water. This can be partially traced to the piecemeal approach to organizing this
Until a community action planning workshop was held and a leader elected in May 2001, the
resettlement had half a dozen leaders from the old communities. Still now, residents are
confused about who the effective leader is and who could help them get organized to realize
their plans. Despite the intention of several NGOs to support the construction of a school or
the management of solid waste, and UNCHS’ plan to construct toilets, people difficultly agree
on common goals and strategies for these activities.
Among this confusion, corruption has flourished. While some renters on the previous sites
were not allowed to move in the relocation site, some better-off families occupy several plots
under different names. The numerous leaders also appropriated public land, which they
leased or sold. Three plots are owned by a police officer who did not belong to any of the
officially relocated squatter communities, and employs a guard to watch “his” property.
Allegedly, he received/purchased these plots from municipality officials.
2. c. Achievements and Difficulties
(+) Everyone in the community has a water connection. They get a thousand liters of water
for 3000 Riels.
(+) The rural surroundings allow people to raise chickens and pigs, and to get vegetables,
fish and crabs from the nearby paddy fields during the rain season.
(+) Health is better here than in Toul Kork. People mostly suffer from minor ailments and
the living environment is much better than along the open sewer line some came from.
(+/-) A few families received a $400-loan from UPDF. The allocation of the loans by UPDF
stopped when the Municipality requested to supervise the allocation of funds.
(+/-) Despite the low quality of some houses, almost all families have a shelter, and a
certificate of occupation that will be exchanged against an ownership title within 5
years. Families too poor to build a house on their plot live with relatives temporarily.
(+/-) Better-off families purchase electricity from a private supplier for 1200-1400 Riels per
kw. Poor families still use oil lamps or candles.
(+/-) A few families do not have their own toilets, but there are four public toilets in the
(-) The site is far from employment opportunities, especially for unskilled workers. Many of
the poorest residents are daily laborers. In their former community, foremen from
nearby construction sites knew where to find them, and they had regular employment.
In the new site, they are far away from these social networks and cannot find work.
Similarly, small traders who used to buy vegetable in one market to sell them in another
cannot afford the transportation cost to the market in Phnom Penh.
(-) Children can walk to a nearby school, but there is no space in the community for an
informal education program for the youngest.
(-) There is no drainage and sewerage system in the community. During the rain,
inhabitants get flooded to the height of the knee.
(-) Road access to the community is uneasy, and there is no public transportation to the
major road. Transportation cost to the city is high compared to average income.
(-) There is no solid waste management and the environment is quickly deteriorating.
3. Samaki 1
3. a. Overview and contribution of the case
Comparative analysis of resettlements in PP 4
Samaki 1 is a resettlement site that was created overnight to accommodate the victims of a
fire in the Tonle Basac, one of Phnom Penh’s largest squatter settlement. On a Friday
evening, a two-hour fire swept away the houses of one thousand families who lost all their
belonging. In a surprisingly fast response, the Municipality instigated a relocation process the
day after the event.
In less than two weeks, 602 families from 9 communities in the Basac were relocated on a 20-
hectare bare piece of land 25 km away from the city. While numerous of the poorest families
were not allowed to relocate for they were not on the ‘official’ resident lists of the squatter
communities (they were renters), 70 families joined the resettlement, for various political
reasons. In the next two weeks, another 500 families arrived on the site. Officially, they were
volunteers for relocation from various squatter settlements. In fact, many were forced to
relocate, and others were simply close to the municipal officials who allocated the plots.
Two months after the blaze, the poorest people had not received the core housing material
they had been promised, many plots had changed ownership, and there was little hope to find
employment in the area for most of the new residents.
The case illustrates the difficulty to plan for resettlement in emergency, and the necessity for
communities likely to be relocated to be prepared to face potential emergency. It is also a
case in point of how confusion provides breeding ground for corruption.
3.b. Summary of the development process
There were two stages in the creation of Samaki: the emergency relocation of fire victims, and
the ‘voluntary’ resettlement of other families not directly affected by the fire.
The Municipality quickly coordinated with UNCHS, and NGOs to provide emergency
assistance to the fire victims. Altogether, each displaced family was to receive a core-housing
unit (9 concrete columns, roofing and plastic sheeting) located on a 7 x 15 meter plot with a
certificate of occupancy. Each was to receive a kit with basic cooking utensils, a water jar and
a bed. Subcontractors were hired to produce individual pit latrines and tube wells, and the
Municipality was to provide transportation to the site, regular water supply, and on-site basic
The mix of responsibilities in the resettlement process between the different municipal
authorities (the Municipality, the local authorities of Samaki and of Tonle Basac) adding to the
urgency of a situation in which shelter had to be provided on the spot, rendered extremely
difficult the process of enumerating families, filtering the free-riders and deciding whom to
include in the process. Indeed, many people reported that the lottery in which the resettlement
plots were allocated quickly after the fire was unfair: the poorest people who did not read the
newspapers or did not have a radio were unaware of the process, and those attending
mentioned that one could bribe the local officials to obtain good spots on the relocation site.
Allegedly, local officials also sold plots to people who were not victims of the fire.
Only families registered with the local authorities as ‘owners’ in the squatter settlements were
allowed to relocate in Samaki. The Municipality assumed that the renters were seasonal
migrants and could return to their houses in the countryside. The exclusion of renters form the
relocation process cannot be considered legitimate: first because all residents should be
ensured the same rights independently of their occupancy status, and second because the
definition of who is a renter and who is an owner in a squatter settlement is so vague that it
leaves room for much discretion and predation from the authorities allocating the rights to
move onto a relocation site.
Once all eligible fire victims had been brought to the resettlement site (a week after the fire),
the Municipality informed other people living in squatter settlements around the fire site that
Comparative analysis of resettlements in PP 5
they could also relocate to Samaki. Because there was no choice but to volunteer, people
were quickly ready to leave. They had been promised during a lottery process that they would
get a support package similar to this of the fire victims. Despite the lack of alternative to
relocation, these (better-off) families mention they were happy to relocate to Samaki as they
would receive a plot with a land title and material to build a house. In this part of the allocation
process, the local authorities chose who was allowed to resettle. Allegedly, officials asked
money from people either to allocate them a better plot, or to accept them in the resettlee list,
even if they did not fit with the selection criteria. Again, only owners were allowed to relocate.
Once on the relocation site, some of the poor families who arrived first could not receive the
support they should have. Most resettlees had to pay to receive the basic material they were
promised for free. Because of delays in the supply of material provided by the Municipality,
and the cost of the bribes requested by the drivers of the trucks providing the columns and
roofs, several families sold their plots for $800-$1000 to new landlords from better-off families,
as well as to army and police officers. After selling their plots, these poor families came back
to squat in Phnom Penh.
In front of the rampant corruption that quickly developed and that marginalized the poorest
even more, the leaders from the nine communities relocated felt they could not do anything,
especially as they knew that municipal officials, and police and military officers were involved
in the scheme. They did not want to speak up against powerful individuals and instead
committed themselves to managing the technical aspects of the relocation process.
3. c. Achievements and Difficulties
(+) Private contractors located in Samaki produce concrete columns, and toilets for the
relocated families. They employ resettled families, and lower the transportation costs
that would be associated with the transport of such material from far away.
(+/-) Most communities of the fire victims were organized and used to participate in a saving
and credit program. In Chung Ruk, there are still community leaders, but the boundaries
of their communities and power are unclear.
(-) Many of the poor families have not received the housing material and equipment they
were promised. Truck drivers require them to pay to receive the equipment, but these
families cannot afford the $10 bribe, and end up staying under plastic sheeting, or going
back to Phnom Penh.
(-) The living conditions of most families were much better in Tonle Basac. They were not
the poorest. In Samaki, they do not have access to basic services, loss their jobs and
all access to employment opportunities (the round trip to Phnom Penh costs 10,000
(-) Overall people and their leaders have been put in a position were they have very little
control over the planning process. They are dependent on the support of NGOs and
authorities and are losing much confidence in their ability to provide for their families.
(-) The water from the 7 wells drilled by the Municipality is not potable. Given the distance
to Phnom Penh, it is unlikely that the Phnom Penh Water Supply authority can provide
regular access before several years.
(-) Many people are sick from the low quality of water and from the heat. The local health
post yet only has basic medicines, and no doctor is available.
(-) Although there is a primary school nearby, children have to go to the city to attend high
school. Transportation costs prevent the poorest children from attending school.
(-) There is no drainage or sewerage system, and parts of the site are flooded for several
days after each rain. Poor families cannot pay for landfilling and have water in their
houses. People throw household water behind their houses
Comparative analysis of resettlements in PP 6
(-) While many of the poor were excluded from the relocation process, clearly ineligible
families received free benefit from it. Several resettled families own cars, some were
local usurers in Tonle Basac who are thriving in Samaki, and others are used to cheat
donor agencies to get plots on several relocations sites, that they then rent out.
PART II - ANALYSIS IN TERMS OF THE POVERTY REDUCTION STRATEGY
Overall, are these three projects achieving their goals of poverty reduction? Although it will
take years before one can fairly assess the impacts of these interventions, the results outlined
from the case studies suggest a few directions to build on the existing strengths of some of the
approaches, and to re-orient others.
This suggestions are presented following the three strategic directions of the urban poverty
reduction strategy in Phnom Penh.
4. Improving access to basic services
The provision of land onto which people have a legal right of tenure is the main achievements
of the relocation projects so far. Yet, housing is not merely the provision of land and basic
shelter and the relative success of Ko Kleang 1 and Ko Kleang 2 is due to the provision of
basic services along with the land and shelter. Road access, water supply and sanitation
services are the most basic services for survival, before health and education services, solid
waste management, and electricity. Without these basic services, people cannot stay in the
The case of Samaki exemplifies that the first to leave a site without access to basic amenities
are the poorest who cannot afford the high price of trucked-in water, while having no income
provision. In contrast, the key of the success of Ko Kleang 1 was the community planning
process that started way before the actual relocation and allowed people to plan for access to
basic services beforehand (land purchase, landfilling, water connection, toilets, and housing
loans). The gradual approach allowed people to understand and participate fully in the
relocation process and minimize the disruption in their lives when they moved on the new site.
If this approach is difficult to apply to emergency relocation projects (in case of a natural
disaster), emergency situations should yet not be a pretext for leaving communities on their
own to develop new sites. Even in case of fire, people should receive provision of
humanitarian aid on the original sites, so as not to add more disruption to the existing
traumatic situations with immediate relocation on unprepared sites. Even in case of fire,
immediate relocation does not seem justified if the relocation site cannot offer basic services.
Meanwhile, authorities can work with the communities to develop alternative living sites, or to
upgrade the existing ones, possibly with the support of private funds, developing land-sharing
projects as in Thailand and Indonesia. The case of Ko Kleang 1 shows that with a few months
of preparation before the move, a resettlement can be successful. In opposition, the case of
Samaki shows how emergency relocation will mostly benefit the better-off, invite corruption
and speculation, and exclude the poorest most in need of basic services.
Emergency relocation then calls for mechanisms to regulate the allocation of plots to avoid
that they benefit speculators and people not targeted by the projects. For this, UNCHS, the
Municipality and representatives of the communities need to continue developing clear rules
for land allocation in case of resettlement (voluntary, or forced by floods or fires) and a clear
understanding of the ownership and tenure regulations. They’ve also need to develop a
standardized process to enforce these rules. For now, the multiplicity of authorities intervening
in the land allocation blurs the allocation process. The process should be the responsibility of
a single office in the municipality, and should be open to scrutiny with presence of a
Comparative analysis of resettlements in PP 7
The approach adopted in Ko Kleang 1 and Ko Kleang 2 of full transfer of ownership after 5
years on the plot seems a fair approach to ownership transfer. The process of land allocation
during emergency needs guidelines, more rigor and transparency.
In terms of the provision of housing itself, the promotion of a core housing approach in which
people can consolidate their houses with time seems most appropriate. The basic house
design by URC and the $500 dollar loans by UPDF allow people to build the core house,
which they can improve with time. In its current approach, the Municipality has wisely refrained
from enforcing building codes or deadlines for construction and has supported people to use
construction material from their old houses by providing them transportation means to the
relocation sites. To further develop this approach, projects could promote the supply of a
variety of building materials, including recycled wood and zinc, so that even people with
limited funds can build their shelters. Loans schemes could encourage the development of
small enterprises (possibly run by community residents) to provide such building materials and
training on construction skills.
Looking for alternatives to relocation outside of the city, land-sharing systems should be
considered in which private owners of land currently occupied by squatters would recuperate
part of their land onto which the government would construct infrastructure. Squatters would
be relocated on regularized building on the other part of the land and also benefit form the
infrastructure. People’s livelihoods would not disrupted by moving away from their sources of
employment, social and family networks, etc. and could provide labor to the site developers.
The main limitation to the current resettlement projects though is the lack of recognition that
employment opportunities are a survival needs for the urban poor and should be considered
as part of the basic services to plan for prior to any relocation.
5. Enhancing the potential for income generation
The most important point of the resettlement is the location of the new living area close to
employment opportunities and/or to affordable transportation for people to go back to work in
Phnom Penh. Without job opportunities on or near the resettlement sites, inhabitants must go
back and forth to Phnom Penh at high costs, do not have the time to build or consolidate their
houses on the resettlement site, and spend much of their income on transportation (a round
trip from Samaki to Phnom Penh cost 10,000 Riels, i.e., the daily income of a middle-class
resident). The lack of employment opportunity is the main reason why people abandon or sell
their plots on relocation sites and come back to rent poor quality housing in squatter
settlements in Phnom Penh. Projects must thus plans for either local income generation, or
cheap transportation to the city prior to the relocation process.
At the level of the community, we could think of a few elements to enable income generation.
First in helping people prepare plans of their houses, URC could develop house models with
space for setting up small businesses such as motorcycle repair workshop, small store or
restaurant. This would help people start their own business and help them repay their housing
loans. An alternative is to allow people to rent part of their houses as an extra income as was
done in Veng Sreng community, an other resettlement site in Phnom Penh.
Second, projects could develop vocational training programs in which skilled residents would
teach value-adding jobs to other community members. In most resettlement sites, there are
skilled auto mechanics, masons or electricians who are unemployed because of a lack of local
jobs and of resources to start their own businesses. Local NGOs such as Don Bosco could
help develop vocational training centers in the communities and link them to small business
(e.g., motorcycle repair-shops). The third related point is then to promote the development of
micro-financial schemes for income generation. Several NGOs operate in Cambodia, but with
limited activities in Phnom Penh as residents of squatter settlements are considered risky
Comparative analysis of resettlements in PP 8
borrowers. Group collateral and the newly acquired land tenure should help alleviate the fear
On a larger level, one needs to scale up the employment generating activities to help provide
jobs to the 15,000 to 30,000 families of urban poor in Phnom Penh. In the logic of the
resettlement process, projects could develop more public/private partnerships for example
with private enterprises that could donate land to house workers and their families, providing
them with utilities and social services, leasing or selling houses to their employees. In Pudong
(Shanghai) this approach has demonstrated that enterprises can benefit from low
absenteeism, better worker morale, and overall improved profitability while providing workers
with secure livelihoods and quality services.
6. Strengthening the governance process
A main factor in the success of Ko Kleang 1 is its community organization. Although good
organization takes time to develop, it allows relocation to be completed with minimal disruption
in people’s lives, maximum acceptance and sustained participation in the maintenance of
projects. Projects should thus continue to focus on the community organization as an integral
part of the resettlements, starting way before the actual physical relocation.
The community organization process should yet not merely strengthen existing informal power
structures within communities, as these are likely to privilege only the strongest and most
articulate. External facilitators should help shape community organization that recognize the
differences of residents (e.g., representing the poorest who cannot attend meetings) and help
formulate community action programs that can unite everyone to achieve common goals. In
the case of resettlements where members come from several communities each with its own
structure, there must be a deliberate effort to redefine the organization of the community to
avoid the dead-ends, power struggle, confusion and corruption of Ko Kleang 2 and Samaki.
At the level of activity planning, projects should involve people in a way that they feel proud of
the place where they live, and are committed to maintain the common infrastructure. For this
we should use the results from the qualitative studies conducted by UNCHS/URC in urban
poor settlements to help communities design housing projects that reflect their own community
life: around a daycare center, the market, or other important place for their regular
interactions. Indeed, even large projects should be built around designing small communities.
Large housing projects such as Samaki, with 22 hectares of rice fields transformed overnight
in a neatly delineated settlement have no space for community interaction and are too big for
a single community to develop. Such sites should be developed around several communities.
To help people give shape to their own visions, projects could then train residents on
construction and maintenance skills. For this, we would develop the kind of technical support
offered by URC into plumbing, electrical work, masonry, etc. that would serve people from
design and construction of their projects to their maintenance and give them employable skills
On a lager scale, the MPP, UNCHS and NGOs/CBOs have developed a rather good
collaboration system over the years, which is to be strengthened by the use of a participatory
monitoring and evaluation (PME) process involving all these agencies. The PME will allow to
further involve the people and their representative in the design and management of the
resettlements processes. Yet, such governance system based on the collaboration of
governmental and non-governmental agencies can only be credible if no one can use a
position of power to unduly benefit from projects aimed at low-income dwellers (e.g., through
land-grabbing). Community protests in Ko Kleang 2 against the appropriation of land by public
officials have shown that communities can successfully fight against some of this speculation
and abuse of power. This should be supplemented by strong and visible government measure
Comparative analysis of resettlements in PP 9
against those who abuse the system, and by clear guidelines for relocation process, including
for emergency situations (such guidelines are indeed in the making).
Lastly, to increase the acceptance of programs oriented toward the urban poor, agencies
involved in the relocation processes must consider the effects of relocations on the
communities living around the site selected. For instance, in less than two months, Samaki
residents used up the yearly water supply of the nearby village; in all resettlement, sanitation
and the disposal of solid waste have a very negative impact on the surrounding environment.
Conflicts with existing communities can have very serious consequences as in Midanao where
the impacts of resettlement programs partly ignited the Christian-Muslim civil war.
The lessons drawn from this limited account reinforce that housing and services provided to
the urban poor are key factors to a poverty reduction strategy, but cannot be dissociated from
the need for income generation, and local political organization.
The analysis further illustrates that the success of resettlement (or community upgrading)
programs is not merely due to technical and financial constraints, but requires a political will to
collaborate in the long term from all parties involved.
The people living in Phnom Penh informal settlements have a capacity to organize, produce
part of their own housing and contribute to the economy of the city that must be acknowledged
and built upon both at both project, and political levels. While this analysis has offered
numerous example of the ability of people to provide for their own needs, it has also pointed to
the necessity of a regulatory environment that allows these abilities to be fully realized.
Aside from the action previously mentioned, the role of the municipality should be to enable
the provision of housing and services by the private sector, and by the members of low-
income communities themselves, while recognizing the need to directly assist the bottom
poor, who cannot afford market-based services, and/or cannot participate in the community
building process through voluntary labor or cash contribution. While part of the enabling
policies could thus be to subsidize projects by paying labor from communities, there must be
direct support to provide housing and access to basic services to the bottom poor of the low-
income settlement, independently of their status in the community (e.g., as renter vs. owners).
A first step in this is to ensure their inclusion in the relocation program and particularly protect
them from the predation of corrupt officials and speculators. An other is also to ensure that all
have access to information regarding their rights and the projects that are available as too
often a negative self-selection occurs when people do not even realize they have claim to any
Lastly, from the outside view of the evaluator, one should give credit to time before assessing
the relevance of specific housing policies and regarding a project as a success or failure. The
contribution of this document is thus to be taken as a documented position to aliment a public
reflection rather than a full impact assessment of the projects it rapidly describes.
Comparative analysis of resettlements in PP 10
Comparative analysis of resettlements in PP 11
Map 1: Location map of the resettlement sites around Phnom Penh
Ko Kleang 1 and Ko Kleang 2
9 km from Phnom Penh
Samaki 1, 2, and 3
17 km from Phnom Penh
Sam aki 1