Former Boeung Kak lakeside residents who accepted compensation after facing forced eviction criticised a recent television portrayal of their living situation and requested additional government funds, during a peaceful protest at Freedom Park yesterday. Villagers from the Borei Santepheap II building in the capital’s Chaom Chao district accepted an offer of US$8,000 and two million riel per household to relocate from the lakeside in January, before the government decided in August to grant 12.44 hectares for on-site relocation to residents who had rejected previous compensation offers.
The villagers spoke out against an October 5 National TV broadcast, which they claimed had incorrectly depicted the villagers’ living situation in a positive light by showing several Borei Santepheap II villagers saying that they had decent jobs and a good standard of living. However, the protestors claimed that they were struggling to find jobs and did not have enough money. Village representative Sam Vanna claimed that the residents highlighted in the television program were lying. “We are living in a difficult situation, but Prak Sarin, former villager in village 2, and Doung Marin, former villager in village 4, said that they are living in good conditions,” she said. Sam Vanna requested that the government provide the Borei Santepheap II residents with an additional US$20,000 so that they could buy homes.
“We would like to ask for more money because our land titles are pawns in the bank now,” she said. In a meeting with villagers earlier this week, Daun Penh district deputy governor Sok Penhvuth allowed the ensuing Freedom Park protest, but said that he had “no right to decide on the villagers’ request” for funds. However, he reportedly promised to relay their demands to the municipal governor. Deputy municipal governor Pa Socheat could not be reached by the Post for comment yesterday. In 2007, Phnom Penh Municipality granted a 99-year lease to local developer Shukaku Inc, run by ruling party senator Lao Meng Khin, to develop land around Boeung Kak lake. Rights groups estimated that more than 20,000 people would face ultimately face relocation as a result of the development.