Dec. 30, 2010. The 99 monks Boeung Kak residents invited to conduct a blessing ceremony in the lake area on Dec. 29 were ordered by the authorities not take part in the ceremony. In response, residents marched to Sras Chok pagoda where the ceremony took place, after first gathering at Shukaku Inc.’s lakeside office to throw salt and rice outside the company’s grounds. Residents said they had invited 99 monks to represent the 99 years of the illegal lease to Shukaku Inc. and that they wanted to organise the ceremony to bring luck for the coming year. Commune chief Chay Thirith had approved the ceremony ahead of it taking place, yet the action was met by police and company guards.
Dec. 29, 2010. In a breaking story the Phnom Penh Post today reported a Chinese company has invested in the Boeung Kak project.
According to the article, Chinese media reports the Boeung Kak area formed part of a US$3 billion investment deal, also including a power station in Sihanoukville and exploration of bauxite in Mondulkiri.
It goes on to say Prime Minister Hun Sen himself took part in a Sep. 8 meeting with the Chinese state-owned Inner Mongolia Erdos Hung Jun Investment Co, which has signed agreements regarding the lake area with Shukaku Inc. as well as another company linked to CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin, the Cambodia International Investment Development Group.
You can read the full story here.
Dec. 24, 2010. 18 families living in Village 23, Boueng Kak 2, Khan Toul Kork have been given one week to demolish their homes to make way for an access road to the illegal Shukaku Inc. development in the nearby Boeung Kak lake area the Phnom Penh Post reports.
According to the newspaper, residents have been offered possibly up to US$1,250 for their homes – a violation of the Expropriation Law which states that private land acquired for public purposes must be compensated at market rates.
Dec. 18, 2010. 24 families living in Group 8, Village 1 on Saturday morning organised a press conference to air their grievances against Shukaku Inc. for refusing to pay them any compensation. Their homes, now flooded with water, are located along the railway tracks, and while Shukaku Inc. has told them to turn to Toll Royal Railways for compensation, the residents have received no documentation enabling to be covered the ADB-funded railway rehabilitation project.
During the press conference, a representative from Shukaku Inc. turned up with two armed men in uniform. He proceeded to argue with the residents and film them.
On Dec. 12, few houses were left in Village 22 which recently received an eviction notice. While staff of Shukaku Inc. sprayed some kind of poison on plants growing in the water, the village itself looked like a deserted war zone. Flags indicating the company will move pumping from Village 1 to Village 22 in the near future were clearly visible from the latter village.
Dec. 3, 2010. The Wall Street Journal on Dec. 2 published an article questioning the unplanned growth of Phnom Penh, tying the lack of urban planning to the recent stampede at Koh Pich bridge. The article highlights the BKL development as particularly controversial, noting some 4,000 face eviction. You can read the full story here.
Dec. 1, 2010. The Phnom Penh Post today reported the Senate’s Commission on Human Rights Reception of Complaints and Investigation has sent a letter urging Kep Chuktema, the governor of Phnom Penh, to act to resolve the ongoing dispute between residents of the Boeung Kak lake area and Shukaku, which is headed by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin. You can read the article here.
But is it too little too late? And how much power does the committee and/or Kep Chuktema have against Lao Meng Khin who together with his wife Yeay Phu run Pheapimex? Indeed, a report entitled “Business and Human Rights in Cambodia: Constructing Three Pillars” released by the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights today, had this to say about Pheapimex:
“3.1.1. BUSINESS-LED ILLEGAL FORCED EVICTIONS
126.96.36.199. Pheapimex Co. Ltd.
In 2000, Pheapimex was granted two agro-industry concessions totaling over 300,000 hectares in Kampong Chhnang. Since the 1990s, Pheapimex – owned by Cambodia People’s Party Senator Okhna Lao Meng Khin and his wife, who are famously close to Prime Minister Hun Sen – has developed an infamous reputation as a logging concessionaire:
“In a forest industry dominated by illegal logging and conflict with local people, Pheapimex held the dubious distinction of being notorious amongst the concessionaires for its ruthlessness and the level of destruction inflicted upon its concession areas. It has enjoyed a long relationship with the Cambodian armed forces, and has used members of the military to provide security and exert control over its forest concessions.”
The areas covered by the 2000 concessions are heavily forested and were therefore deemed ideal for developing high pulp-yield acacia and eucalyptus plantations and for building a paper mill. The eviction affected ‘[h]undreds of villages in about 50 communes where families rely on the forest for gathering non-timber products and grazing cattle.’ Logging concessions were in theory suspended in 2002, yet allegedly deforestation continues unabated.”
You can access the full report here.