Villagers file court complaint

May Titthara, Phnom Penh Post, Oct. 05 2011

Photo by: Pha Lina
Boeung Kak lake resident Doung Kea, whose house was destroyed i the September 16 eviction, addresses reporters yesterday after filing a complaint with other villagers to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Familes living in village 22 around Boeung Kak lake whose homes were destroyed by excavators from a company owned by a ruling party senator during a bloody forced eviction last month, yesterday filed a complaint to Phnom Penh Municipal Court. During the incident, which was caught on video and has been viewed thousands of times on YouTube, people were pushed and grabbed by officials and Sam Rainsy Party youth wing leader Suong Sophoan was beaten unconscious as the houses of eight families were dismantled. The owners of the houses were cut out of a 12.44-hectare resettlement deal granted by Prime Minister Hun Sen in August to residents from 746 families facing eviction from the lakeside to make way for a real estate project being developed by Shukaku Inc, a company run by ruling party Senator Lao Meng Khin.

The premier signed a sub-decree setting aside the relocation area for families that had yet to accept compensation offers, but residents from villages 6, 22 and 24 were subsequently cut out of the deal during the land-titling process. Sok Tong Heng, whose house was one of those destroyed, said that in the complaint the villagers had demanded between US$10,000 and $40,000 in compensation for the destruction of their homes and abuses committed against them. “The reason that I filed a complaint to Phnom Penh Municipal Court was because the company violated the villagers’ rights, they demolished villagers’ homes and were very cruel,” he said. Sok Tong Heng also questioned why police officers had assisted the company’s staff members as they tore down the buildings. Some 100 district and riot police helped Shukaku staff members in excavators during the violent incident on September 16 and were allegedly responsible for beating the SRP activist unconscious.

Doung Kea, whose home was also destroyed in the incident, said he wanted Shukaku to reconstruct his home.  Sia Phearum, secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said yesterday that he hoped the court would act impartially. Municipal court deputy prosecutor Sok Roeun could not be reached for comment yesterday. Representatives of Shukaku also could not be reached by the Post. According to rights groups,  some 4,000 families faced eviction after Shukaku was awarded a 99-year lease in 2007 to develop 133 hectares of land around Boeung Kak lake. The company later joined with Chinese firm Erdos Hong Jun Investment Company, which has a 51 per cent stake in the project.

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