David O’Shea of Australia’s Dateline returns to Cambodia to find residents at Boeung Kok lake are being flooded out of their homes. Click here to watch the video.
In the News (KA Set): Rage and despair of Boeung Kak residents after their complaint is dismissed by the Court of AppealJanuary 9, 2009
From the KA Set Article:
“With no surprise, the Court of Appeal dismissed the complaint lodged by Boeung Kak lake residents against private company Shukaku on Thursday December 25th. The Municipality of Phnom Penh had agreed for the latter to develop the area under a 99-year concession. After the hearing, there were tears and cries among the Phnom Penh residents living on and around the lake, which is in the heart of the capital. People’s houses have been collapsing in turn into the water since the company started filling in the lake in August. A shopping centre and other facilities are due to appear in this area inhabited since the 1980s. “
Role of Shukaku (the company filling in the lake):
The hearing went on for three hours. The Court’s decision confounded the lawyer of the residents, Choung Chou Ngy. “The President of the Court declared in his ruling that the Shukaku company had nothing to do with the case!”, he said, considering the decision to be simply “unfair”. “How can he say they have nothing to do with it? We can clearly see that by pumping sand into the lake, the company is causing my clients to lose their homes!”, the lawyer fulminated. However, he has no intention to give up the fight.
After the ruling, the Shukaku company’s lawyer, Cheng Peng Hâb, played shy with the journalists and tried to avoid them. His phone stuck to his ear, he returned inside the courtroom for shelter, until he was forced to come out after court staff turned the lights off. He then finally gave a terse comment on the verdict, “This case concerns the Municipality and the residents. It is therefore up to the Municipality to solve it. I cannot tell you anything more since I am only the company’s lawyer!”
Article: “Overseas Aid Benefits Whom?”
From the Article: “Boeung Kak was long ignored by Phnom Penh’s powerful elite — until recently, when they found a way to profit. In February 2007, the city entered into a 99-year lease agreement with Shukaku, Inc., a private domestic firm with close links to local politicians and Chinese developers. For a mere $79 million, Shukaku now controls 133 hectares, including Boeung Kak and surrounding land.”
“This contract, which threatens to displace at least 4,252 families, was negotiated in a shroud of secrecy without even the pretense of participation from the tens of thousands of people who will be directly affected,” says David Pred, Cambodia Country Director of Bridges Across Borders (BAB), a member of the Cambodian Housing Rights Task Force. “If these families are forcibly removed from their homes, this would mark the largest single displacement of people in Cambodia since the privatization of land in 1989.”
Family’s house Falls into Lake, Pumping Blamed, Legal Investigators blocked from interviewing the family.
“On Thursday 27 November, cops prevented Cambodian and foreign investigators from Licadho to meet with a family living on Boeung Kak Lake which is currently being filled in for a major real estate development project.”
In the evening of Wednesday to Thursday, Sun Ratanak’s home on stilt sunk into the lake water. Chea Nara (a Licadho investigator) said that he and his colleagues were prevented from meeting the family of the victims. “We can only get into the location if we ask the authorization from the Phnom Penh governor,” Chea Nara reported.
(Selections of the article translated from French by saveboeungkak)
“Touch Narot, Phnom Penh Police Commissioner says he is surprised that journalists are so concerned by what he considers a small issue. ’People (journalists) should not all rush to Boeung Kak over a little story like this, the collapse of a little house in this development zone. The owner of this house should go negotiate compensation with the company…’”
The article also highlighted the use of police to block investigators, and Shukaku’s methods:
“‘There was no reason to send in armed officers of the Intervention Police. Where is the harm in taking photographs of the damage? Today we saw how an invisible company used the authorities to harrass people who were doing their job. No Cambodian law forbids taking photos and filming!’”
“Rather than conducting a mass eviction that would produce strong reactions and resistance, the company prefers to wait until all the houses disappear one after another into the water…’”
-Ka-set, quoting Naly Pilorge, Director of LICADHO
In the news: Rights groups are uncertain controversial Boeung Kak project will meet the standards of its own environmental reportNovember 23, 2008
From the Phnom Penh Post Article (21 November 2008)
Highlights: Local rights groups highlight flaws in Developer’s arguments, question environmental commitment.
“… SHUKAKU Inc, the local developer filling in Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak lake as part of a commercial and housing development, has manipulated its own environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) to justify construction, say local housing rights groups.
“… housing rights advocates have dismissed the argument that filling in the lake constitutes effective environmental management.
“It’s a completely false argument,” said Hallam Goad, advisor to housing rights advocacy group Sahmakum Teang Tnaut.
“The lake is polluted, for sure – partly through human effluent and partly through other kinds of waste materials – but you need to clean the lake, not fill it in.”
Goad also criticised sections of the report that claim the development “will not cause negative impacts to infrastructure systems”, or that it “will improve the traffic system in Phnom Penh” and attract up to US$2 billion worth of investment.
“All I can see is that the $2 billion is the value of the real estate they will create by filling in the lake, which will go straight into their own pockets. In comparison to the key open space in the city, it doesn’t make any sense at all,” he said.
In the Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 09 October 2008
“Residents living under threat of eviction say their lives got even more difficult when their supply of running water was turned off last month”
Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 03 October 2008
“As creeping waters start to force the first Boeung Kak residents from their lakeside properties, housing rights advocates maintain the planned development of a large-scale commercial and housing project in the area is illegal under the Kingdom’s 2001 Land Law.”
Ka-Set, Monday September 29 2008: Messenger Band : Sept ouvrières tissent en chantant le fil de leur quotidien au Cambodge (Messenger Band: seven workers weave by singing the wire of their daily life in Cambodia) by Zineb Dryef and Ros Din
(translation to English by Babelfish)
“A song dedicated to the inhabitants of Boeung Kak:
The group recently recorded a title with Kong Nay, the “Ray Charles” of Cambodia, one of the players of chapei – traditional lute – most famous of the country. “Land and Life” is diffused on YouTube. The clip already recorded a few thousands of visits. This song highlights the group is dedicated to the inhabitants of the lake Boeung Kak, threatened for expropriation. The images of violent expulsions of those of those in rural Cambodia:
“Us, the Cambodians of the cities and the campaigns, have a recognized, pleasant, luminous ancestral cultural heritage. Water, forests, land where in harmony the people and their animals live. But all changed, our villagers have problems. For dollars, we lose our houses and our land”
[Over 2000 viewers so far.]
The article has this to say about filling of Boeung Kak: “…now architects and urban planners are saying the loss of the lake to commercial development will tarnish the city once regarded as the “Pearl of Asia”, ceding one of its last remaining green spaces to colourless urban sprawl. Urban-planning experts contacted by the Post said the project was irresponsible and could trigger unforeseen environmental consequences, despite City Hall assurances that the 133-hectare Boeung Kak development has been vetted for its environmental impact.
Police move quickly to remove signs of dissent in Boeung Kak.
Armed police, Phum 4 community. (Click for full image)
Police in Phum 4 community.
Police with AK-47s.