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Cambodia’s AIDS colony

Conversations for a Better World This post is part of a series developed by Global Voices for the UNFPA blog Conversations for a Better World · All Posts

Various human rights groups have accused the Cambodian government of setting up a de facto AIDS colony when it resettled 40 families with HIV and AIDS to a village 25 kilometers outside Phnom Penh City.

The families were from Borei Keila in Phnom Penh. They were evicted from their homes to make way for an urban development plan of the government. The families are now living in Tuol Sambo village.

The families are complaining of their situation in the “AIDS village”:

With inadequate sanitation and no running water, the area is not a health sanctuary for HIV-infected patients, who require personal attention and care.

HIV-infected people living in the village say they have not received any official recognition of ownership rights nor government compensation for their old homes.


Details are Sketchy
wants to find out the responsible authority for this drastic move:

Who is responsible for this decision? The media should find out. And prosecutors should start preparing a case. Because it’s all but certain that at least one of those 40 HIV-positive people will die as a result of the move. That’s negligent homicide, at least, if not outright premeditated murder.

The Global Network of People living with HIV is urging the Cambodian government to address the humanitarian concerns of the evicted families:

* Cease moving HIV-affected families to the Tuol Sambo site;
* Improve conditions at Tuol Sambo to meet minimum standards for adequate shelter, sanitation, and clean water;
* Ensure full access to quality medical services, including antiretroviral treatment, treatment of opportunistic infections, primary health care and home-based care;
* Work with relevant agencies and consult with the families already at Tuol Sambo to address immediate and long-term concerns regarding housing, health, safety, and employment, and reintegration into society in a manner that protects their rights and livelihoods; and
* Employ a transparent and fair screening process to determine eligibility for on-site housing at Borei Keila, and allow eligible families to move in immediately. For those found ineligible, authorities should provide other adequate housing.

Writing for Global Health, Alanna Shaikh reacts:

To me, this looks like a classic example of treating people living with AIDS as though they are disposable. They're going to die anyway, goes the logic, so there is no reason to treat them well. But people with AIDS are still human beings, with rights and skills and the ability to live full lives. Treating as less than human benefits no one.

More than 100 international and local groups wrote Prime Minister Hun Sen and Health Minister Mam Bunheng urging the latter to provide a better treatment to the evicted families:

The housing conditions at Tuol Sambo are grossly inadequate in terms of size, fire safety, and sanitation. Residents are crowded into poorly ventilated metal sheds that are baking hot in the daytime. There are no kitchens and no running water in the sheds, which are flanked by open sewers, and only one public well to service the evicted families.

While other homeless people from Phnom Penh are slated for relocation to brick houses at an adjacent site at Tuol Sambo, the HIV-affected families from Borei Keila have been placed in a separate settlement with inferior housing, distinguished by green corrugated metal roofing and walls. Even before the evictees were resettled there, local people referred to the green sheds as “the AIDS village.”

The living conditions at Tuol Sambo pose serious health risks, particularly to people with compromised immune systems. The risk to those people living with HIV can be life threatening. Residents report that the heat in the poorly ventilated metal sheds is so intense that they are usually unable to remain in their rooms during the afternoon and they are afraid that their ARV medication will deteriorate in the heat.

The situation of the evicted families in their former homes in Borei Keila was not also good as shown by this video by licadho, which was uploaded on The Hub:

  • http://khmerian.com khmer

    I observed that in order to alleviate the spread of HIV/Aids, the government try to raid and close the brothel. It is not good way, those girls would seek new shelters in order to do their business. And some works for karaoke parlors, night-club and so on. the spread of HIV is increasing. What is important is that the government have to raise the awareness to all of them.

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