Boeng Kak Lake Residents Ask for Help from UN’s Ban

Villagers from Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak lake area yesterday protested their pending evictions outside the train station near Prime Minister Hun Sen’s office building, where the premier was meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Some 4,000 families in Daun Penh district’s Srah Chak commune are slated for eviction after a 99-year lease for the lake area was granted by City Hall to the private development company Shukaku Inc in 2007. The 80 protesters said yesterday that they hoped that Mr Ban would lobby the prime minister to let them stay.

“Our main objective is to raise banners showing our concerns to Mr Ban Ki-moon because we want him to put pressure on the government to not violate the Paris Peace Agreements’ residence rights clause,” said protester Be Pharum, referring to the 1991 mandate guaranteeing Cambodians “protection from arbitrary deprivation of property or deprivation of private property.”

The villagers were hopeful that Mr Ban would broach the subject of land titles during his discussion with Mr Hun Sen, according to Mr Pharum.

Yesterday’s protest followed a gathering on Tuesday during which the villagers handed officials from the UN Development Program a formal petition requesting that Mr Ban discuss their relocation with the premier.

“We want Mr Ban Ki-moon to intervene with Prime Minister Hun Sen to stop local authorities who are keeping us from voicing our complaint,” said village representative Ly Mom. “They are using force to crack down on people who have nothing but their bare hands.”

Srah Chak commune chief Chhay Thirith yesterday accused municipal authorities of operating outside the law and relying on their status for protection.

“The authorities do things that contradict the law, but the court only comes into it when we do something illegal,” said Mr Thirith.

Sia Phearum, secretary-general of the Housing Rights Task Force, said yesterday that he was hopeful that the UN would intervene on the villagers’ behalf.

“I think that at least they have to help the situation because we are a member of the United Nations,” said Mr Phearum.

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