Another 42 families facing eviction at Boeung Kak have been cut out of a hard-fought compensation deal. The move fuelled protests yesterday at the former lake, as about 200 protestors burnt tyres and accused municipal authorities of betraying them. Dismayed residents from villages six, 22 and 24 in Phnom Penh’s Srah Chak commune said they had been cheated by Daun Penh district officials out of promised on-site relocation within a 12.44-hectare area granted to 756 families by Prime Minister Hun Sen on August 11. “Those officials said that they will not issue land titles for our 42 families located on the edge of Boeung Kak lake,” villager Kim Vanny said, adding she was told residents whose homes lay very close to the water were not entitled to new land.
Excluded resident Chea Sokchern showed the Post a copy of a letter inviting her to apply for a land title, which she has now been told she would not receive. Last Wednesday, families from village one were also excluded from the deal after municipal authorities said their land lay close to a train line and fell under the responsibility of transport authorities or the railway operator. The relocation offer was hoped to bring to a close a battle for fair compensation that has raged since 2007 for at least some of the estimated 4,000 villagers set to be evicted to make way for a real estate development backed by ruling-party senator Lao Meng Khin’s Shukaku Inc.
Some villagers said that even before the deal was publicly announced foul play was at hand, with Shukaku representatives purchasing plots of land just days before the on-site compensation was announced. Chhay Rithysen, director of the municipal department of urbanisation and construction, said on Monday that the relocation site would be located behind the Ministry of Information, west of Calmette hospital, and near the French embassy. Daun Penh district deputy governor Sok Penhvuth, who visited Boeung Kak yesterday, declined to comment.
The Prime Minister’s decision to grant the land to lakeside residents came just days after the World Bank announced it had suspended any new funding to projects in Cambodia until an acceptable resolution to the dispute was brokered. Cambodian finance minister Keat Chhon reportedly postponed a forum to garner international donor support indefinitely in a letter to the bank on August 17.