By Chhorn Chansy, The Cambodia Daily, May. 07 2013
The Boeung Kak community and a land rights NGO yesterday released a proposed demarcation plan they say could solve the long-standing land dispute.
In a map presented yesterday, villagers said they had agreed on a land division that would make room for 70 families locked out of a plot created by the government and set aside for hundreds of families.
“Including the villagers who had been cut out from the land concession plan given by the sub-degree into that free space is the best way to end this chronic land dispute. However, this solution depends on the conscientious decision of the government officials,” notes the report issued by NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, which presented a preliminary plan in July 2012.
“This method is the best for finishing the Beoung Kak land dispute, which is what the government and Beoung Kak villagers want,” said Chan Rithisa, a Beoung Kak representative. Villagers have been locked in a dispute with the city and the development company since 2007, when CPP senator Lao Meng Khin’s Shukaku company was granted a 99-year lease to fill in the lake and build a massive development complex of apartments, villas, shops, and restaurants. After a protracted struggle, in 2011 Prime Minister Hun Sen signed a sub-decree awarding a 12.44 hectare plot to more than 600 families who had turned down the initial compensation and resettlement schemes.
But scores of families remained locked out of the deal, and the dispute has raged on with near-constant protests that, at times, have grown violent.
Shukaku’s Meng Khin could not be reached for comment.
Phnom Penh City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said he hadn’t heard about the proposed solution, but found it “strange”.
“I don’t know about this issue clearly yet, but it is surprising,” he said.
Ruth Keber, The PhnomPenhPost, Apr. 11 2013
In the wake of winning two human rights awards, Boeung Kak lake resident Tep Vanny is now also part of a film that has scooped up the best documentary prize at the 35th Annual Film de Femmes Festival in France.
Directed by Vincent Trintignant-Corneau and Christine Chansou, Even a Bird Needs a Nest is a documentary about the notorious forced evictions at Boeung Kak lake.
Vanny was one of 13 women imprisoned in May last year after a lawyer-free, three-hour trial, convicted of defying authorities and illegally occupying land at the Boeung Kak lake site – a move widely condemned by human rights groups across the world. After protests and calls for their release, the Appeal Court set the women free in June, but upheld their convictions.
Vanny was beaten and threatened after protesting the evictions and has emerged as a spokeswoman for the swathes of residents affected. She now features as the protagonist in the 90-minute film, which provides a portrait of her and other Boeung Kak district residents from 2007, when the government awarded a 99-year-lease on the 114-hectare site to development firm Shukaku. The company then filled in the lake and evicted thousands of families.
In Even a Bird Needs a Nest, Vanny describes herself and her sisters-in-arms as drowning rats: “We cling to the floating branches around us”.
The 32-year-old was awarded the Global Leadership Award last week at the Kennedy Center in Washington, sharing the stage with former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden.
The annual award ceremony honours and celebrates women leaders around the world.
Vanny was also awarded the Amnesty International-sponsored, €5,000 ($6,523) Golden Butterfly: A Matter of ACT Human Rights Award at the Movies that Matter Film Festival in The Hague on March 27.
She told the Post that the honours she had received renewed her strength to fight for the release of fellow Boeung Kak lake resident Yorm Bopha.
Bopha was recently denied bail for the second time and sent back to Prey Sar prison after being jailed for international violence charges and being accused of ordering an attack on two motodops in Boeung Kak’s Village 22 in August last year.
Her supporters and rights groups call the charges baseless and motivated by a desire to silence her community.
Trintignant-Corneau said that after witnessing the lake being filled with sand from a nearby guesthouse, he and his wife, co-director Christine Chansou, decided to make the documentary.
“Evictions [in Cambodia] are like a disease,” he said. “When I met Vanny, her first words to me were: ‘If we don’t struggle today, we will die tomorrow”.
Chansou said she was also struck by Vanny’s strength, charisma and determination to broadcast the Boeung Kak residents’ plight to the rest of the world.
Vanny introduced the filmmakers to various women in Boeung Kak, which prompted a host of others to come forward and tell their stories.
Trintignant-Corneau said that when Vanny first watched the film, she laughed, embarrassed by hearing her own voice and seeing herself on screen.
This abated after several viewings, and she told the filmmakers, “This is my real life, and everything is true.”
Trintignant-Corneau said that during filming they received several anonymous threats. “One caller said, ‘You can’t shoot here because the houses are mine, the streets are mine and the people here are mine.’ But because we were French, [we could still film] – if we were Cambodian, it would have been different.”
After the film won the award, Chansou said Vanny was shocked.
“She asked everybody to join in the struggle for Bopha.”
The filmmakers hope to screen the documentary in Cambodia in the near future.
The event was held by Vital Voices, an organization established by Clinton in 1997.
Tep Vanny accepted a global leadership award, calling it a sign that the Cambodian struggle for housing and land in the face of forced evictions had earned international recognition.
“I will continue to advocate and struggle until there is a solution,” she told VOA Khmer after the ceremony, which was aimed at raising the profile of a number of women activists internationally.
Tep Vanny has emerged as a prominent leader for former residents of the Boeung Kak lake neighborhood, which was leveled for a massive development project that also filled in the lake. Some 4,000 families have been relocated since 2008, with 61 families still holding out for a small parcel of land on the 133-hectare site.
“The award is very meaningful to the women of Beoung Kak lake and other victims,” Tep Vanny said. “It means their voices have been heard globally. They are supporting us and not allowing us to be isolated.”