Press Release: Housing Rights Groups Condemn Illegal Filling Of Boueng Kok

For Immediate Release:

Housing Rights Groups Condemn Illegal Filling Of Boueng Kak

26 August 2008

The Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF) strongly condemns the filling of Boueng Kok Lake.

Employees of a private company began pumping sand into Phnom Penh’s largest natural lake this morning at 9:00am. Local residents reported being told by company representatives that the pumping would continue eighteen hours a day until the entire lake is filled. The filling of the lake is a direct result of the unlawful 99-year lease agreement between the Municipality and Shukaku Inc. signed in February 2007.

These actions and the lease agreement itself stand in flagrant violation of the following laws:

  1. Restrictions on leasing State Public Land – According to the article 15 of the Land Law (2001) water bodies, such as lakes, are considered to be State Public Property. Article 18 of the Sub-decree 129 ANK.BK states that the leasing of state public property must not exceed 15 (fifteen) years. Because the lease between Shukaku and the Municipality is for 99-years, the lease is illegal.

  1. Restrictions on damaging State Public LandAccording to article 16 of the Sub-decree 129 ANK.BK, the leasing of state public property must not damage the property or change its function in providing a public service. Filling the lake will obviously do irreparable harm to the lake, and thus the current pumping is illegal.

  1. Infringement on privately held land – The lease agreement appears to transfer interest in land that is already legally possessed by local families under the 2001 Land Law. While the lake itself is State Public Property, many surrounding families have demonstrated legal claims to their property through legal possession. The filling of the lake threatens to flood their houses and destroy their homes.

Boeung Kak lake has historically been one of the most important of seven natural lakes around Phnom Penh, dating back to the early 1900s. It has not only been a place of recreation and enjoyment for Phnom Penh’s residents, but it serves as a natural reservoir for excess rainwater during the monsoon season. The public function of the lake is clear and this contract risks destroying that public function in violation of Cambodian Land Law.

Moreover there are growing concerns that the environmental impacts of filling the lake will create significant drainage problems in Daun Penh and Toul Kork districts as well as depriving the city of one of its most valuable landscape amenities. Phnom Penh has already witnessed an increase in flooding during the rainy season, which has been attributed to the filling of other city lakes, such as Pong Peay lake in Toul Kok district. The filling of Boueng Kok is a serious concern for all of Phnom Penh’s residents and it highlights the urgent need for protection of natural resources.

The Ministry of Environment (MoE) reportedly conducted an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the proposed development, but it has yet to release it to the public. “The residents of Phnom Penh deserve to see independently verified evidence that the lake filling will not cause flooding and other environmental problems for the city,” said Meas Kimseng, Coordinator of Sahmakum Teang Tnaut and member of the Housing Rights Task Force.

“Shukaku’s lease agreement is unlawful,” said David Pred, Cambodia Country Director of Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia and member of the Housing Rights Task Force. “It does not provide any legal cover for the company to destroy this vital natural resource and to strip away the land and housing rights of tens of thousands of Cambodian citizens. It would never hold up in court in any country with an independent judiciary,” he added.

Dan Nicholson, Coordinator of the Asia and Pacific Programme of the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), called on the Municipality and company to put an immediate halt to the pumping: “The filling of the lake is blatantly illegal; it should be stopped. If the government wishes to develop Boueng Kak, they should do so through a legal process, in consultation with the communities that live around the lake.”

Housing Rights Task Force member organizations and Boueng Kok residents are now preparing to file for an injunction order in the Courts of Cambodia to challenge these illegal actions.

Yeng Virak

Executive Director

Community Legal Education Center

David Pred

Country Director

Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia

Measkim Seng

Coordinator
Sahmakum Teang Tnaut

For further information, please contact:

Khmer: Ms. Rachana Bunn, HRTF,

Tel: 092 546 325 or email: rachanabunn@gmail.com

or

Mr. Pen Raingsey, Resettlement Action Network

Tel: 012 953 593 or email: rainsey@ngoforum.org.kh

English: Mr. David Pred, BABSEA

Tel: 092 285 954 or e-mail: davidpred@babsea.org.

or

Mr. Dan Nicholson, COHRE

Tel: 017523274 or email: dan@cohre.org

The Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF) is a coalition of more than 20 local and international organizations dedicated to protecting housing rights, including forced evictions that are not in conformity with international human rights law and domestic law. HRTF is working to support community action and strengthen civil society organizations to promote housing rights in Cambodia.

Tags: cambodia,eviction,housing,property

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