Residents in two villages bordering Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak lake now have just five days left to sign a compensation agreement or risk getting nothing after they are forced from their homes to make way for a high-end residential and retail development, according to a copy of an eviction notice distributed by the Daun Penh district authority.
The notice, issued Monday, states that Boeng Kak residents living in Srah Chak commune’s Village 2 and Village 4 must within seven days sign an agreement to leave their homes.
According to the notice, residents can receive compensation for their eviction in three forms: $8,000 and 2 million riel (around $500); 2 million riel and a permanent flat in Dangkao district’s Choam Chao commune; or a temporary residence provided by City Hall and the ability to move back to the Boeng Kak area once the development is complete.
“In case villagers are stubborn and do not move away and agree to the [compensation] policy, the Daun Penh authority will move them away and will not be responsible for any property damage,” read the notice signed by District Governor Sok Sambath.
In February 2007, Phnom Penh City Hall signed a 99-year lease with local firm Shukaku Inc, which is owned by CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin and his wife Chheung Sopheap, to fill in Boeng Kak lake and build private residential and retail buildings. This plan requires the evictions of thousands of residents who currently live on and around the lake.
Pich Sokna, 52, who has lived in Village 2 since 1981, said yesterday that she and other local residents are skeptical of the compensation deals being offered.
“We want to get housing in the same area after development, but we are worried we will not be able to move back,” she said. “We will lose proof that we originally lived there if we move away. They have a lot of tricks.”
Mrs Sokna added that the monetary compensation of $8,000 and 2 million riel is not enough money to relocate to a house in the city. “I checked many places in the city and even a 5 by 12 meter [plot of] land costs $20,000,” she said.
Mr Sambath, the district governor, said that the notice was issued to the two villages because they represent the “first step” of the relocation process and authorities are worried for the residents’ safety as construction workers continue to pump sand into the area.
Mr Sambath claimed that 80 percent of the 900 families who live in the two villages have agreed to accept the housing in Choam Chao. He added that residents should not worry about accepting the third compensation option: “City Hall and district authority will respond to this case. They should not worry. We will take pictures, make a contract and fingerprint them,” he said.
Am Sam Ath, a monitor with local rights group Licadho, said that the notice and deadline amounted to “strong pressure” on residents. “The authority should find a good solution to solve the problem with the villagers,” he added.