World Bank restarts loans to Cambodia

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Phnom Penh, May 20 (IANS) The World Bank has approved $130 million worth of fresh loans to Cambodia following a five-year freeze sparked by the forced evictions of a Phnom Penh community.

In a statement published on Thursday night, the bank said it has "approved financing for four projects to provide many communities across Cambodia with better roads, sustainable sources of water, improved livelihoods from agriculture, and increased access to health care", EFE news reported.

Ulrich Zacha, country director of the World Bank for Southeast Asia, said in a statement that the new engagement was aimed at producing "tangible benefits for Cambodians".

"We will help finance projects to make healthcare more affordable, improve roads, and support poor villagers who depend on agricultural livelihoods and fishing. We will also continue our close partnership with Cambodia to share international experience and help build local capacity, strengthen institutions and improve governance," he said.

Repayments for the $130 million worth of loans are stretched over 25 to 40 years, including a grace period of up to 10 years, the bank said.

The bank announced the suspension of all new loans to the Southeast Asian country in August 2011, citing mass evictions in the capital's Boeung Kak lake community.

Then-country director Annette Dixon said at the time that "until an agreement is reached with the residents of Boeung Kak ... we do not expect to provide any new lending to Cambodia".

But many residents of Boeung Kak lake said they are still yet to receive adequate compensation.

Ahead of the World Bank meeting about the new loan on Thursday, Boeung Kak resident and anti-eviction activist Tep Vanny told The Cambodia Daily newspaper that the freeze should only be lifted if the evicted families are also helped.

"We demand that the World Bank be responsible for the people evicted from Boeung Kak and push the government to find a solution quickly because we have been suffering for almost 10 years," she said.​

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