Former lakesiders plead for help

May Titthara, Phnom Penh Post, Oct. 04 2011

About 200 villagers who accepted compensation after facing eviction from Boeung Kak lakeside staged a peaceful protest at Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park yesterday. The families were complaining that those who had rejected the deal had now been offered on-site relocation. The villagers from the Borei Santepheap II building in Chaom Chao district accepted an offer of US$8,000 and 2 million riel to relocate from the lakeside in January, before the government decided in August to grant 12.44 hectares of on-site relocation to those who had rejected the deal.

An estimated 4,000 families have already or will be displaced by a real estate project at Boeung Kak lakeside area being developed by ruling party senator Lao Meng Khin’s company Shukaku Inc. Sam Vanna, a representative of the protestors, said that villagers from Borei Santepheap II were forced by the threat of eviction to accept a compensation offer and asked authorities to provide a fairer resolution. “Where is the justice for us that agreed to take a small amount of money,” she said.

“We would like to ask the Phnom Penh governor and the government to provide us with more money – the Prime Minister said where villagers suffered, he would be there,” she added. Sam Vanna said the 432 families who had agreed to take the compensation in January were now struggling to find employment and had been forced to relocate into areas far away from health clinics and schools.

Lao Vann, deputy director of Shukaku Inc, said yesterday that the compensation issue was a matter for the government and not his company. Pa Socheat Vong, who is deputy governor of Phnom Penh Municipality, could not be reached for comment.

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