Lakeside deal skips Village 1

Khouth Sophakchakry, Phnom Penh Post, Aug 19 2011

Hundreds of fam-ilies at Boeung Kak lake would receive land titles next week, Phnom Penh governor Kep Chuktema announced yesterday, but one village has been excluded from the deal that all but ends Phnom Penh’s highest-profile land dispute.

At a meeting with about 500 villagers at the Phnom Penh Municipal Hall, Kep Chuktema said land titles would be provided and stamped free of charge to families in six Boeung Kak villages in Daun Penh district’s Srah Chak commune.

“We will go to make land titles for our brothers and sisters on Monday,” he said, but warned villagers they would be required to pay property tax after receiving the papers.

Before titles were issued, houses would have to be measured and surveys conducted, he added.

But Kep Chuktema provided no detail on how 12 hectares of land awarded to 756 famil-ies by Prime Minster Hun Sen in a sub-decree made public last Monday would be divided among recipients.

It followed a suspension of  lending to the Kingdom by the World Bank because of the issue.

The titles are the final step for villagers to secure the on-site relocation that they have been fighting for since 2007, when ruling-party senator Lao Meng Khin’s Shukaku Inc was awarded the right fill in Boeung Kak lake and evict thousands of residents in the area for a real- estate development.

But while most people at yesterday’s meeting were overwhelmed with joy and praise for Phnom Penh’s governor, residents of Village 1 said they could not understand why they were excluded from the deal.

A sub-decree issued on Wednesday cut Village 1 from the deal.

Kep Chuktema said yesterday  the proximity of Village 1 to train lines in the area placed it under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Transport or Toll Royal Railway, which have both  denied any responsibility to relocate villagers.

“I thought it was unjust for my family and other villagers living in Village 1,” said resident Ly Nary, whose house was destroyed last year when Shukaku began pumping sand into it.

Pov Choeurn, the chief of Srah Chak commune’s Village 1, said yesterday Shukaku had pumped sand into the houses of 72 families now excluded by the deal, while 23 others who were set to be evicted had simply been told they were not living in the affected area.

“I really have pity for them, but this is the decision of my superiors,” he said.

Tol Srey Pao, a representative of Village 24, has vowed to continue protesting against the decision until everyone affected by the project has received compensation.

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