New building at Boeung Kak draws ire

Khouth Sophak Chakrya, Phnom Penh Post, Feb. 01 2013

boeung kak

Labourers employed by Shukaku Inc remove building materials from a site near Boeung Kak lake after their attempt to build an office was thwarted following a protest by local residents. Photograph: Khouth Sophak Chakrya/Phnom Penh Post

Boeung Kak lake villagers yesterday demanded that a construction team from Shukaku Inc cease building on land in village 22, which they say Prime Minister Hun Sen awarded to their community in 2011.

About 50 villagers confronted the seven builders and their two bosses in Daun Penh district’s Srah Chak commune, demanding they walk away from a steel-framed structure they had begun erecting the night before.

Sia Phearum, secretariat-director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said officials had told the villagers the land was part of the unmarked 12.44 hectares Hun Sen had cut from Shukaku’s concession in 2011.

“The company already has more than 100 hectares . . . why are they not respecting the prime minister’s sub-decree?” he said, adding that villagers were concerned by the company’s motives. “Maybe [the building is] for security guards. Maybe they’re going to intimidate people.”

The builders agreed to stop work, but one of them, who identified himself only as Pov, told the Post that Shukaku had permission from municipal authorities to build.

“We’re building on company land only,” he said.

Deputy commune chief In Saphorn said his office had not been told the construction was going ahead.

“I have not been informed about this, but maybe the company already has permission from municipal hall,” he said.

In 2007, the government awarded a $79 million contract to Shukaku, owned by ruling party senator Lao Meng Khin, to develop Boeung Kak.

After the World Bank suspended new lending to Cambodia over its treatment of the Boeung Kak community, Hun Sen cut 12.44 hectares from Shukaku’s concession in August 2011.

Villagers said yesterday that the company had fenced off its 114 hectares and was encroaching on land promised to more than 60 families.

“If we do not protest this time, maybe in the future villagers will be evicted again,” villager representative Tep Vanny said.

A representative from Shukaku said his office had “no comment to make”, before hanging up. Long Dimanche, a municipal hall spokesman, could not be reached.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHANE WORRELL

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