Evictees block road

By May Titthara and Khouth Sophak Chakrya, Phnom Penh Post,  Tue, 24 December 2013

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A former Boeung Kak lake community member burns tyres outside Phnom Penh’s City Hall during a demonstration yesterday. Demonstrators and monks blocked Monivong Boulevard and demanded the governor of Phnom Penh pay them additional compensation. Heng Chivoan

About 100 former Boeung Kak residents and supporters shut Monivong Boulevard to traffic for hours yesterday as they burned tyres and demanded additional compensation for 2008 agreements with the municipality that they have come to see as a raw deal.

“We are demanding downtown shelters,” said Sea Nareth, a representative of the community, which was forced from Boeung Kak to Phnom Penh’s outskirts in Dangkor district in 2008. “Our lives are damn difficult, and we cannot wait any longer for settlement from the municipality.”

Contracts the former Boeung Kak residents signed were unfair and undervalued their homes, said demonstrator Chhem Chhen, 65. Despite the deals being signed five years ago, the municipality owes more, he argued.

“We are demanding extra compensation, ranging from $8,000 to $20,000,” said Chhen, whose home was knocked down. “If there is no settlement, I will go and sleep on my land.”

The group – which is not affiliated with the usual Boeung Kak protesters – represented hundreds of families who were pressured in 2008 to accept either new houses on the capital’s outskirts, new apartments and $500, or $8,500 in exchange for their homes.

Land deals with Boeung Kak residents came after the municipality signed a 133-hectare economic land concession with Shukaku Inc in 2007 for $79 million. The move affected about 4,200 families.

Among the group demonstrating yesterday were members of the Independent Monks Network. Member Prim Huon said he supported the former Boeung Kak residents because, he asserted, many were pressured to sign unfair deals and lost their livelihoods as a result.

“If they were well-off, they would not demonstrate to get more compensation,” Huon said.

The demonstrators arrived at Phnom Penh City Hall on Monivong Boulevard yesterday morning, demanding a meeting with municipal governor Pa Socheatvong. The group initially blocked traffic between 9:30 and 10:30am.

After a 10-minute respite, the group continued blocking the road when Socheatvong declined to meet the group. Protesters continued blocking the road for hours, bringing tyres into the road at about 2pm and burning them.

Over loudspeakers, police said they would not interfere with the demonstration, but pleaded with protesters not to seal off the thoroughfare.

Before the demonstrators put out the piles of tyres they set alight at about 7pm, some monks sprinkled water on one of them, cursing the officials involved in the relocation.