Daun Penh District Governor Sok Sambath has issued a notice to residents living around the capital’s Boeng Kak lake, ordering them to stop repairs on their houses and banning any new construction in the area, villagers said on Sunday.
The notice, dated May 29, refers to those who live in the area as “temporary residents” and orders all families living around Boeng Kak lake to cease construction on their homes.
“All paving road activities, sewage system and all activities renovating houses have to ask for permission from the company, district [authorities] and Phnom Penh City Hall,” the notice to residents reads.
The “company” refers to local firm Shukaku Inc, which was given a 99-year lease on the lake and its surroundings by Phnom Penh City Hall.
The company is wholly owned by CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin and his wife Chheung Sopheap, the owner of local development giant Pheapimex.
About 4,000 families are thought to live in the 133-hectare area covered under the lease, and they have so far been offered money and/or housing at a relocation village in Dangkao district as compensation.
Residents and rights groups expressed concern over the notice Sunday, and said the authorities should not stop them from repairing their houses if they needed maintenance, especially as the rainy season has arrived.
Bunn Rattana a monitor for NGO Housing Right Task Force, said she had not seen the notice but that villagers had told her about it.
“This notification is not right, people should have the right to repair their houses. If the house is about to collapse and you don’t allow them to repair it, the house will collapse and they have nowhere to live,” she said.
But, she added, it was not wrong for the district authorities to halt any new construction in the area.
“It makes sense that in terms of controlling family statistics the authorities don’t allow people to build new houses, but it doesn’t make any sense not to let them repair what is already there,” Ms Rattana said.
One villager, Chuop Pally, 58, said she was shocked to see the notice.
A Boeng Kak resident since 1979, she said she couldn’t understand why the authorities suddenly referred to them as “temporary residents.”
“If officials want to develop this place, I do agree. But they should give us reasonable compensation that I can use to buy my new home,” she said. “[When] we saw this letter everyone almost dropped their livers,” she added.
Neither District Governor Sok Sambath nor deputy municipal governors Pa Socheatvong and Mann Chhoeun could be reached for comment Sunday.