Some 100 former residents of Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak community yesterday delivered petitions to 10 embassies and the offices of the World Bank and the European Union asking them to pressure the government into increasing the compensation for their evictions.
Sam Vanna, a representative of the residents, said the group represents the roughly 3,000 families that were evicted from the site over the past year to make way for a real estate project lead by Shukaku Inc, a private firm belonging to CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin, who is also chairman of the powerful Pheapimex group.
The families say they were pressured into accepting paltry compensation for their eviction and that they had been subjected to threats that they should either accept what was on offer—a one-time cash payout of $8,500 or free housing on the outskirts of the city—or be given nothing at all and still be evicted.
They said they also felt snubbed by the government’s recent decision to grant land titles at Boeng Kak to the 1,000 other families who withstood the firm’s pressure.
Ms Vanna, who was among some 100 residents who hand-delivered their petition to the World Bank, EU and embassies including those of Australia, China, France, the UK and the US, said the evicted families are seeking an additional $20,000 each.
Those evicted complain that the housing they were given is too far from work and schools for their children, and that the cash payout did not cover the cost of a new home.
“We want to have proper homes and proper jobs to earn a living,” Ms Vanna said. “These residents left the lake and respected the law, so we ask the government to treat us well.”
Ms Vanna also insisted that the families were not asking for new land inside the 12.44 hectares the government recently cut out of the Boeng Kak development site for the other 1,000 families.
“We ask only for more compensation…. The $8,500 we got from the company is not enough,” she said. “We took the money because the company and authorities forced us.”
In August, the World Bank confirmed that it had frozen all new loans to Cambodia to protest the Boeng Kak evictions and said it would start lending to the government again only after an equitable solution for the families was found. The Bank has since declined to elaborate on what sort of a solution it would