HRTF Media Statement
The Phnom Penh Municipality Must Abide by the Government’s Order
to Grant Land to the Remaining Boeung Kak Lake Families
September 16, 2011 – The Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF) strongly condemns Phnom Penh’s willful misinterpretation of the government plan to resettle nearly 800 families threatened by redevelopment at Boeung Kak Lake. The municipality has arbitrarily excluded of over 10 percent of the threatened families, while simultaneously granting nearly two dozen land titles to CPP senator Lao Meng Kim – owner of lake developer Shukaku – within the dedicated “resettlement zone.”
On August 11, 2011, the government granted formal ownership of 12.44 hectares near Boeung Kak Lake to 779 families. These families are what remains of a community of over 4,000 families who lived in the lake area prior to the government granting Shukaku an illegal concession over the area. Most of the remaining families live in the 12.44 hectare resettlement zone, 96, however, do not. The Phnom Penh Municipality subsequently announced that the 96 families were excluded and not eligible to take part in the resettlement as they do not live within the designated 12.44 hectare zone. In the meantime, Shukaku has moved to inundate the houses of the excluded families, ramping up sand pumping operations to flood their homes day and night. Homes have also been outright demolished.
While HRTF applauds the government’s decision to ensure that most of the remaining Boeung Kak Lake families can remain in their homes, HRTF believes the Municipality’s actions toward the 96 families is both flawed and unjust.
The 12.44 hectare resettlement zone contains more than enough space to accommodate all 779 families. There are numerous empty plots in the zone, upon which new houses can be built. These plots were left behind by families that were coerced into leaving their homes earlier in the development process; the compensation they received was far below the market value of their property.
Many of these plots are “unavailable” because the Municipality announced that it will grant ownership of them to Shukaku owner Lao Meng Kim. HRTF believes that the Municipality’s has intentionally misinterpreted the government order in order to aid Lao Meng Kim and Shukaku.
The CPP senator now claims ownership over at least 21 of these plots, which implies that he purchased them from their legitimate owners. Of course, when this “purchase” was made, both Shukaku and Phnom Penh authorities systematically refused to recognize that the Boeung Kak residents had any ownership rights over their land whatsoever. Shukaku instead based its claims to their land on a government land concession. But that concession has now been reduced, and it no longer includes the 12.44 hectares in which Lao Meng Kim is making claims to 21 plots.
By now claiming land in the resettlement zone, Lao Meng Kim seems to acknowledge that the Boeung Kak residents are, and were, legitimate owners, something the affected families have maintained all along. Consequently, Shukaku obtained plots in the resettlement zone on a false basis.
“The senator should not be entitled to land within the resettlement zone, a scenario that makes a mockery of what appeared to be a fair deal for the Boeung Kak families,” said Sia Phearum, Secretariat Director of HRTF. “While the government has put forward a solution to the ongoing land dispute at Boeung Kak, the Municipality together with the company are actively undermining the fair and just implementation of that solution.”
HRTF therefore calls for:
– The Cambodian government to ensure that all of the remaining lake families are treated equally and given land titles within the 12.44 hectares allocated to them in the August 11, 2011, government order.
– The Cambodian government and the Shukaku Company to offer financial support to the 96 families who will need to relocate within the 12.44 hectares to prevent further impoverishment of these families.
– The Phnom Penh Municipality to stop its intimidation campaign against Boeung Kak Lake residents, to fully implement the August 11, 2011, government order and abide by its intent.
– The Shukaku Company to stop its aggressive water and sand flooding of the houses belonging to the 96 families prior to relocating these families and providing them with land titles within the 12.44 hectares.
Sia Phearum, Secretariat Director, HRTF
Tel: 012 852 325
Am Sam Ath, Monitoring Supervisor, LICADHO
Tel: 012 327 770