Former Lake Residents Demand More Cash

About 150 former Boeng Kak lake residents who had already ac­cepted compensation or alternative housing in exchange for leaving their homes protested at Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park yesterday to demand more money.

Sam Vanna, a representative for the former residents, said that about 400 former lake residents had either accepted compensation of about $8,500 for their lakeside homes or moved to free apartments in Dangkao district’s Choam Chao commune. She said their new community in Choam Chao was far from basic necessities such as schools, markets and hospitals.

“We are the villagers who moved from our homes and now we are suffering badly,” Ms Van­na said, adding that many of the apartments they now live in are poorly built and need constant maintenance. “We ask for more compensation in order to buy a proper house that is closer to the city.”

So far, about 3,000 families have been evicted from their homes around the lake. Last year, authorities offered villagers three compensation options: a new apartment in Dangkao district, a one-time cash payout of about $8,500 or a new on-site apartment once the Boeng Kak real estate project was finished.

Ms Vanna said that villagers were seeking an additional $20,000 per resident and had sent a letter to City Hall asking for more money.

“The requested amount of mo­ney is not much,” she said. “It is just proper compensation.”

In a sub-decree signed Aug 11, the premier cut out a 12.44-hec­tare piece of the community where families could keep their homes and apply for land titles.

But some of the 3,000 families already evicted from the area claim they were cheated out of the plan and pressured into accepting paltry compensation in exchange for their early departure.

Due to the evictions of villagers around the lake, the World Bank has frozen all loans to Cambodia.

Horng Seng, another former resident of the area, said that she was given compensation earlier this year for vacating her land in Village 1, but that Shukaku Inc, which is owned by CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin, had pressured her into taking it.

“That is what they threatened. Take this money and if you don’t, later you will get nothing,” she said. “I appeal to the government, especially Samdech Hun Sen to treat all the Boeng Kak lake residents equally.”

Sia Phearum, secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said that villagers had every right to appeal to the government for better compensation.

“[They] all need to talk about their concerns and about their hard situation to their representatives,” he said.

Keut Chhe, deputy chief of ad­ministration at City Hall, de­clined to comment, while muni­cipal governor Kep Chuk­tema could not be reached.


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