Some 20 Daun Penh district residents gathered in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Phnom Penh home yesterday afternoon to demand land titles for 3,200 families facing eviction from around Boeng Kak lake.
At least as many police officers lined up in front of the prime minister’s home to bar the protesters from walking directly up to the house. But Tol Srey Pov, one of the protesters, said the group managed to hand its petition requesting the titles to an unnamed member of Mr Hun Sen’s Cabinet.
The premier’s Cabinet could not be reached for confirmation.
“We sent the petition to [Mr] Hun Sen’s cabinet asking for land titles and for a decision that we don’t have to move,” Ms Srey Pov said.
The families are facing eviction to make way for a massive development project being spearheaded by Shukaku Inc. Housing rights groups claim the city violated residents’ rights to claim land titles when it granted the firm a 99-year lease to the site in 2007.
In the last few weeks, the firm’s filling of the lake has flooded about 100 homes in Srah Chak commune’s Village 1 with sand, burying some of them entirely. Ms Srey Pov said she has even seen company guards stealing from the buried homes.
“After burying the houses, company police with guns threaten villagers not to take any belongings out of the sand and police themselves dig the sand to get inside the houses to take villagers’ property,” she said. “Villagers can only stand and watch their houses being destroyed and tear up.”
Local residents and rights groups say the evictions are making already poor families poorer.
“We are poor now,” said Sus Sopheap, another protester. “Why are they stepping on us to become impoverished?”
“Authorities seem like they ignore the villagers,” added Tep Vanny. “I don’t know whether government officials work for the company’s interests or the people’s interests.”
Lake residents have already submitted several petitions to the prime minister’s Cabinet demanding titles and an end to the sand pumping, to no avail so far.