City Governor Justifies Boeng Trabek Evictions

A day after six homes were partially destroyed near Phnom Penh’s Boeng Trabek at the re­quest of City Hall, municipal governor Pa Socheatvong on Wednesday attempted to explain the city’s actions in a meeting with nearly 100 concerned residents living around the lake—much of which appears to have been filled in with sand.

Speaking inside a warehouse in Chamkar Mon district’s Phsar Doeum Thkov commune, Mr. Socheatvong said an undetermined number of residents would be evicted to make way for a new road ringing the lake, which would also lead to a new water-pumping station.

Phnom Penh municipal governor Pa Socheatvong speaks to villagers living near the city's Boeng Trabek reservoir on Wednesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Phnom Penh municipal governor Pa Socheatvong speaks to villagers living near the city’s Boeng Trabek reservoir on Wednesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

The governor claimed that “newly arrived” residents had caused the lake to shrink from 60 to 20 hectares over the past 10 years.

“Phnom Penh is now faced with serious flooding,” Mr. Socheat­vong said, adding that Boeng Trabek “is the problem. The situation in this area is that the lake is shrinking and becoming shallow.”

“Now, think to yourself: In Daun Penh, Tuol Kok, Prampi Makara, and also Chamkar Mon district, one person produces one piece of poop per day,” he continued. “One piece weighs 0.2 kg and for someone who eats a lot, it is 0.5 kg.”

“So, we have 1 million people times 0.2 kg, which equals 2 million kg [sic]. How much is this if we count from the year since we first could not rehabilitate the lake?”

Boeng Trabek serves as one of the city’s many lakes and canals in­to which the city’s sewage is pumped.

Mr. Socheatvong said authorities would not provide compensation for land lost to the new road, which would be five meters wide. Stilted houses built out over the lake would be demolished and their owners offered cash or a place at a resettlement site, he said, while land titles would be provided to residents with property outside the ring road.

“We have the master plan to address the issues, first, through compensation,” he said. “Second, we will work hard to find land to make a community for brothers and sisters.”

Speaking to Mr. Socheatvong at the meeting, Neth Pearom, a representative of the Boeung Trabek residents, implored the city to provide adequate compensation to evictees, telling the audience that he believed more than 300 families would be affected by eviction.

“We will follow the city’s order to move if they provide a solution,” he said. “Please, let residents leave with a smile and do not order them to move in tears.”

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