Phnom Penh Municipality awarded a 99-year lease to a little-known private firm Tuesday to develop 133 hectares around and including the Boeng Kak backpacker area, officials said Wednesday.
Pa Socheatvong, Phnom Penh deputy governor, said the agreement with Shukaku Inc will benefit the city, though he declined to reveal how much the firm is paying or what it plans to do with the land and the Boeng Kak lake.
Money from the deal will be used to provide alternative housing for people currently living in the area in Daun Penh district’s Srah Chak commune, he said.
“Our state will benefit from the rent, which will be used to build infrastructure and especially to provide housing for the residents who live there,” he said.
Pa Socheatvong would not say what kind of alternative housing would be provided for those affected by the land deal, but added: “We will organize the housing in a orderly and right way.”
Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema, who Pa Socheatvong said signed the agreement, said he was too busy to speak to a reporter.
Lao Meng Khin, director of Shukaku Inc, did not answer repeated phone calls, and an address for the firm’s office could not be located.
Khmer-language newspaper Rasmei Kampuchea reported Wednesday that Shukaku Inc paid $79 million for the lease, and plans to build a luxury resort as well as commerce and cultural centers on Boeng Kak.
Ek Khun Doeun, Daun Penh district deputy governor, said there are approximately 4,000 families living and working in the affected area who do not own their land.
“Boeng Kak land belongs to the state,” he said. “They came to grab land there between 1993 and 1994,” he claimed.
Srah Chak commune chief Chhay Thirith said he did not know what would become of the people currently living and working at the lake.
Residents and business owners around the lake said they were shocked by the news of the lease, and had only heard about it in local papers.
Den Phou, a 24-year-old staffer at a money exchange shop at the lakeside, said he was concerned residents will be violently evicted if they refuse to relocate.
“We don’t have any plans yet. We just wait,” he said.
One 46-year-old man living along the lakeside said on condition of anonymity that the municipality should inform those living at the lake of its plans.
“We are afraid of being evicted and we want sufficient money to be able to buy other land in the capital,” he said.
“I have been living here for almost 30 years already. According to the Land Law, I’ve owned the land for five years now,” he added.