City officials said yesterday that an offer of land to people living near Boeung Kak lake would not force residents to relocate, following concerns about how the city would implement Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order. Villagers won 12.44 hectares of land for on-site housing at the lakeside in an August 11 sub-decree signed by the premier, but the directive did not specify where the land would be located or how it would be divided among residents. Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema announced last week that 756 residents would receive land titles. He also claimed, however, that people living in Village 1 fell outside the project’s area and would not be part of the deal offered by Hun Sen.
Tep Vanny, a representative for more than 750 families in the area, said that about 300 families, including her own, had been invited by district authorities to obtain land titles, but had not yet provided their fingerprints over uncertainty as to the details of the government’s offer. “We have much concern over this issue, and do not want to be faced with any evictions a second time,” she said. Mei Sina, a forty-nine-year-old resident of Village 24 in Daun Penh’s Srah Chak commune, told the Post yesterday that residents held reservations over how the city would carry out the sub-decree.
“We need the municipal authorities to confirm the real location of the 12.44 hectares of land that was given [to villagers] in the Boeung Kak area … as well as the provision of land for each family before they issue the land titles for us,” she said. “We are scared of being evicted in the future.” After the concerns were raised, Chhay Rithysen, director of the municipal department of urbanisation and construction, told the Post that the 12.44 hectares would be located in existing villages. “According to the announcement of the Municipal Hall on implementing the sub-decree … [it] has set the location of this land in Villages 6, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24,” he said.
Lao Vann, deputy director-general of Shukaku Inc, the private company backing the multi-million dollar development at the lake, declined to comment yesterday. Shukaku, which is headed by ruling party Senator Lao Meng Khin, was awarded a 99-year lease of 133 hectares to develop the area in 2007, and later joined with Chinese firm Erdos Hong Jun Investment Company. The World Bank announced earlier this month that it halted funding to Cambodia over widespread displacement from the project, and called on the government to find a resolution for residents. Within days, Hun Sen signed the sub-decree offering 12.44 hectares “to the people”.