Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lake plan prompts protest

Tuesday, 27 April 2010 15:02 Khouth Sophakchakrya
Photo by: Pha Lina
Boeung Kak lake residents protest in front of City Hall on Monday.

ROUGHLY 50 protesters who say they face eviction due to development work at Boeung Kak lake gathered in front of City Hall on Monday after learning that authorities had approved plans for the controversial project behind closed doors.

The protesters decried the fact that city officials have approved development plans before many of the roughly 4,000 families that stand to be affected have finalised compensation arrangements.

“We need land titles for our homes, and we want the development to be fair and transparent,” said protester Lim Samnang.

He added that the demonstrators became particularly alarmed after hearing that the development plans, which have never been publicly released, could be closer to completion. Officials told the Post on Sunday that the plans were approved during a private meeting last Thursday.

On Monday, villagers held posters with images of Prime Minister Hun Sen, Bun Rany and others, as well as signs declaring that they did not support plans for the site.

A handful of residents were allowed to enter City Hall. But they said they were only allowed to visit one official, who refused to give his name. They said he offered no satisfactory answers.

“Tomorrow, we will come to protest in front of City Hall again,” said Sam Vanna.

Tensions have simmered since 2007, when authorities awarded a 133-hectare swathe around Boeung Kak lake to Shukaku Inc, a group headed by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin. Housing rights advocates say the villagers have a right to claim ownership of the land, on which many have lived for years. But authorities, who have offered families US$8,500 in compensation, say the land belongs to the state.

Residents also say they have been left in the dark about their futures, with authorities rarely releasing any public details of the planned development.

Phnom Peny Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun said he was too busy to comment on Monday.

But one city official, who asked not to be named because he was not permitted to speak to the media, said the recently approved development plan would impact all residents currently living in the Boeung Kak lake area.

He said the plan calls for the construction of 12 roads linking the area to already existing routes surrounding the development.

City officials have also been given a limit on how much money they can offer in compensation, he said.

“How much money to pay in compensation to the residents is based on a government decision to limit the price,” he said.


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