Flooded Guesthouses Order From Boeng Kak Lakeside

Daun Penh district authorities told guesthouse owners to move out from properties on the edge of Boeng Kak lake in an order issued Friday.

A letter signed by Daun Penh district governor Sok Sambath on Friday ordered the immediate closure of guesthouses on Street 93 in accordance with city hall policy and to protect guests from collapsing buildings.

“Daun Penh district hall would like to ask the owners of guesthouses to stop their businesses immediately,” a copy of the letter said.

Business and homeowners in eight villages in Srah Chak commune were told on Friday to leave within a week to make way for development, Mr Sambath said yesterday.

“We informed them to move their businesses to shake their spirit before we take action to remove their businesses,” Mr Sambath said, declining to say what this action would be or when it would happen. “We told them because we want to avoid conflict and we do not want to frighten them” when the removal takes place.

Lakeside residents and housing rights groups blame private developer Shukaku filling the lake with sand for flooding many homes and businesses-a problem worsened by recent heavy rains. Shukaku started pumping two years ago after the city granted a 99-year lease to the area in 2007 for a project estimated to displace some 4,000 families.

However, many staff and owners at guesthouses yesterday feared for their future and denied knowledge of the latest order to go.

At least two guesthouses were already being taken down while more than six others nearby stood empty and heavily flooded inside. Guests have to wade more than knee-deep to enter some guesthouses and declining tourist trade has meant at least two bars are gone.

Chheang Chamroeun, manager of Number Ten guesthouse, said that he received the letter to shutter, but did not intend to pack up because five months of his contract remained. “The business doesn’t have to close down immediately when the letter is given,” Mr Chamroeun said.

The owners of Number Nine guesthouse and Happy guesthouse confirmed receipt of the letter, but declined to comment for fear of jeopardizing their businesses further.

Heng Leang Im, 43, while supervising workers dismantle the remains of her former Same Same, But Different guesthouse, said that the her business was one of about five guesthouses to close down since late September.

Ms Leang Im said that her rental contract ended because her landlord sold the property to Shukaku for $8,000 in compensation and 2 million riel, or about $500, in removal fees. “I lost profit. I am very regretful and it will be hard for me to find a new career,” she said.

Son Dara, 38, a restaurant employee sitting in Green Lake guesthouse submerged in deep water, said that he heard rumors of the letter but the place was as good as closed anyway because no tourists came to stay.

Other owners had already given into pressure to leave from the sand pumping company, which caused the severe flooding made worse by the annual rain, Mr Dara said. “They want [the flooding] so it is easy to force people to shut and make all the people move.”

Deputy municipal governors Pa Socheatvong and Nuon Sameth declined to comment yesterday.

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