600 confront developer Shukaku with compensation demands
About 600 residents of the Boeng Kak lake area protested yesterday in front of the offices of the CPP-linked firm Shukaku Inc, demanding that the company provide them with better compensation for their homes, from which they are soon to be evicted.
The demonstration, one of the largest by Boeng Kak villagers in recent memory, followed the delivery of letters on Thursday to all lakeside residents, demanding that they settle with the company within a week or face the possible demolition of their homes.
As they protested, villagers waved the letters in the air, calling them their “invitations” to visit Shukaku offices.
“Each villager carries an invitation letter to negotiate to seek a resolution with the firm Shukaku Inc,” said villager representative Ly Mom. “Please come out to talk with us. We are here. Why don’t you come out to meet us?”
The company, which is owned by CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin, was granted a 99-year lease on the area in a 2007 deal criticized by housing rights groups for denying lakeside families a chance to claim land titles.
Last year, Shukaku partnered with a Chinese firm on the project, forming Shukaku Erdos Hongjun Property Development.
The city has been issuing eviction notices to individual families and villages since Shukaku started filling in the lake with sand in 2008, but between 1,500 and 2,000 families are still living around Boeng Kak, down from around 4,000.
No company representative emerged from the Shukaku office yesterday, but 30 minutes after the protest began, Daun Penh deputy district governor Sok Penhvuth appeared on the scene–on behalf of Shukaku as well as district and municipal authorities, he said.
He said villagers would not necessarily be evicted next week, but that next Thursday was a firm deadline for accepting compensation. The city has offered a trio of options: $500 and a small apartment in Dangkao district, $8,500 cash, or on-site housing once the lake development is finished. Residents have rejected all three as inadequate.
“The government has only three options,” he told protesters.
He encouraged them to negotiate for compensation one family at a time, rather than collectively. Mr Penhvuth also reiterated the government’s rejection of a recent proposal by villagers that they be given 15 hectares of land to build on themselves.
“You cannot do like that, because our country has laws,” he said.
However, he eventually promised to re-submit the proposal to City Hall, leading the villagers to agree to leave the Shukaku premises.
Heng Mom, a resident of Village 22, said villagers were sleepless worrying about their pending evictions.
“I want to tell you that every day we cannot sleep or eat because we are scared of their threats,” she said.
She added that she was afraid to negotiate for compensation one-on-one, because villagers who had done so in the past had been threatened with having their homes demolished.
Tep Vanny, a villager representative, said it would be impossible for residents to accept the compensation options on offer.
“Please give us this 15 hectares of land,” she said. “It is not much. Please, Samdech Hun Sen, consider this issue. Aside from that [15 hectares], the company can take everything to develop. We’re not against it.”