Court: Shukaku Can Keep Filling Boeng Kak

The Appeal Court refused a re­quest Thursday to issue an injunction stopping the Shukaku Inc firm from continuing with its controversial filling of Boeng Kak lake in Phnom Penh, a lawyer said.

Residents living around the lake—who are earmarked for eviction when Boeng Kak is filled with sand as part of a massive private residential development—had de­manded the company’s work be halted until they receive adequate compensation.

“The court refused the demands from villagers because the court thought that the company is not a party to the dispute,” said Choung Chou Ngy, the residents’ attorney.

Choung Chou Ngy said that he would find a new way to file a complaint after he receives the official verdict from the Appeal Court.

Cheng Peng Hab, an attorney for Shukaku, said the company was in­deed not a party because it had only rented the land from the mu­nic­ipality, and that the villagers should take their complaints up with City Hall.

Shukaku Inc, which is owned by a senator from Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP, was granted a 99-year lease for Boeng Kak from the municipality in February 2007.

There was no competitive bidding for the lake and land project, and details of City Hall’s agreement with the pri­vate firm have ne­ver been made public.

Cheng Peng Hab said Shu­ka­ku will not stop filling the lake because it would go against business interests.

Natalie Bugal­ski, legal officer of the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions, which has argued that Shukaku’s lease is illegal, said the Appeal Court decision was disappointing.

“We are disappointed that the courts of Cambodia have once again failed to uphold the rule of law, despite strong legal arguments put forward in favor of the injunction,” she wrote Thursday in an e-mail message.

“There are very clear adverse im­pacts of the pumping of sand into the lake, including the collapse of people’s homes and the flooding of northern parts of Phnom Penh,” she wrote.

Thursday’s Appeal Court hearing, which was closed to journalists, was greeted with anger by some 100 Boeng Kak residents who had gathered near the courthouse.

The residents knocked down a sign outside the back gate of the Ministry of Justice compound, where the court is located, and shouted slogans against the court while holding incense sticks and chanting prayers for a curse to befall the court.

“We thought that we’d have justice from the Appeal Court, but fi­nal­ly we have unfairness again,” said Be Pharom, a resident of Boeng Kak’s village Number 4.

Appeal Court Judge Thou Mony, one of three who presided at the hearing, declined to comment.

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